India: Seminar on Islamic-Christian relations

The Jesuit Secretariat for the Service of the Faith in Delhi and the Association of Islamic Studies in Delhi organized a webinar on “Dialogue between Christians and Muslims: Global Challenges and Opportunities” on January 19.

The webinar was presented by Professor Heru Prakosa SJ, who is one of the six new consultors of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He is also an advisor for dialogue with Islam at the Secretariat for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Jesuits. He teaches at the Faculty of Theology at Sanatana Dharma University in Jogyakarta, Indonesia.

Having extensive experience in the field of Christian-Muslim studies, Fr. Heru provided a panoramic view and a broader perspective on various experiences, challenges, concerns and opportunities in the current context of interreligious dialogue. He emphasized the openness of the Church to other religions and highlighted the key text Nostra Aetate, which he said opened the door to other religions and created a space for dialogue. He referred to the letter “A Common Word” signed by Muslim scholars to Pope Benedict XVI and 27 other Christian leaders, considered an important document on the Muslim side. He also reminded his listeners of the ominous shadows cast on humanity by war and violence in the name of religion.

Father Heru highlighted three main challenges and opportunities in the context of dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Context is first and foremost. Father Heru drew the attention of his listeners to Latin American theology to show how dialogue could be developed in Asia. Theologian Gustavo Gutierrez showed that theology should begin with contextual historical processes and be directed to committed spiritual and pastoral actions of Christians in a particular context. In other words, Gutierrez understands and practices theology as a critical reflection on praxis in light of the Word of God. In the light of Gutierrez’s reflections, we can affirm that in a theological process, one discovers people’s deepest aspirations and desires and one is compelled to face their struggles and sufferings, because praxis says a lot about people, their core beliefs and who they strive to become.

In the Asian context of widespread poverty, diversity of religions and multiplicity of cultures, dialogue is a new way of being the Church (Ecclesiam Suam, 1964), Fr. Heru said. In such a context, reciprocal communication, mutual friendship and respect, as well as joint efforts for the common good, all in the service of a common search for the fullest realization of the truth, must inspire us to deepen further our commitment to the Christian faith. Muslim relations.

Secondly, Father Heru evoked the spiritual heritage of Louis Massignon and his mentor Blessed Charles de Foucauld for relations between Christians and Muslims. These two pioneers rediscovered their faith in the light of the religious life of Muslims. They “shouted the gospel from the rooftops”, to use Foucauld’s expression, through their “kenosis”: lives given in the service of Muslims.

Third, Fr. Heru called on his listeners to build partnerships for common goals towards the common good. He focused on religious collaboration in academia and dialogue. This collaboration can help solve problems such as poverty, injustice and terrorism.

A lively exchange of thoughts and reflections confirmed that the conference was well received by Father Heru’s listeners. Father Joseph Victor Edwin SJ, Secretary of the Islamic Studies Association, moderated the session. He emphasized that for sustained dialogue between Christians and Muslims, dialogue practitioners must cultivate a critical or historical understanding of religions as well as an understanding of each religion as its believers themselves understand it.


Keywords: Interreligious dialogue, Christian-Muslim dialogue, Heru Prakosa SJ, George Victor SJ, Joseph Victor Edwin SJ

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