“Every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.” Spiritual Exercises #22, Ignatius of Loyola
JESEDU-Rio2017 is well underway! Beginning our second full-day with morning prayer, participants reflected on a passage from the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which Pope Francis emphasizes the role of interreligious dialogue in promoting peace in our world. It was a fitting way to move into today’s theme of interreligious dialogue in education.
The speaker today, Fr. Vincent Sekhar, SJ, member of the Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions at Loyola College in Chennai, India, emphasized that interreligious dialogue should form an integral part of Jesuit Education in responding to a secular world and to growing fundamentalism: signs of the times that are increasingly shaping our current societies. With regards to this, he stressed that Ignatian spirituality facilitates the transformation of education in our schools and among all those who form part of our educational centers. Fr. Vincent also reminded us that interreligious dialogue and reconciliation run through the very veins of the Society of Jesus and its various ministries, and go beyond studying other religions. It involves being open to others and their experience of God and having a more inclusive attitude towards other religious experiences. It is a process of learning and of exchange, of tolerance and celebration that provides a peaceful and inclusive space in order to promote coexistence and mutual understanding.
Today’s discussion following Fr. Vincent’s presentation allowed us to see the wide variety of local contexts and realities where the participants have come from. Without a doubt, interreligious dialogue is a challenge. How to approach religion or how to address one’s experience of God depends significantly on one’s local context. Nevertheless, in a world increasingly characterized by globalization, how do we prepare our students to be a part of a global context? As a global network, it is an obligation and an undeniable reality that we need to always have present the global context.
Speaking from their particular experiences and contexts, participants discussed the importance of the language we use in regards to interreligious dialogue. The call to move forward in the direction of “interreligious action”, where the starting point is a common experience of working and acting together, had strong resonance. The notion that we can face the realities in our cities and countries as a global network represents a profound consolation.
Continuing to strengthen our global network must focus on an education that promotes respect, tolerance, inclusion and dialogue among diverse cultures, religions and social realities. Our capacity to build bridges and dismantle barriers between faith traditions and between different realities constitutes a distinctive feature of Jesuit Education that our global network should continue to expand and deepen, so that our students can have a global and diverse outlook in their mission transform the world.