INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE ORIENTED TO ENVIRONMENTAL CARE (Cecilia Sabato)
Dialogue is the way that mature humanity uses as a tool to solve its problems in almost all areas.
In order not to be misleading, dialogue must have its own rules; actually, it is necessary that the parties assume mutual respect for human dignity, freedom of expression, and respect for the environment as a fundamental criterion.
In this sense, interreligious dialogue is important because it is based on intentions of respect for the whole of creation.
Interreligious dialogue is part of the evangelizing mission of the Church and is intended as a method and means for mutual knowledge and enrichment. The real common element of religions is not the mystical experience but the salvific function. Hence the need for dialogue in order to know and welcome the salvific values that emerge in the various religious experiences.
However, Carlo Molari, theologist of interreligious dialogue, recommends to overcome the possible temptation to elaborate a theology of religions before engaging in dialogue within them. On the other hand, such a dialogue always requires a theology, which disposes to change and solicits conversion. The commitment to dialogue with other religions already implies in itself that the Church is exposed to challenges.
I remind the periodic interreligious meeting for peace which has been being held in Assisi since 1986, promoted by Pope John Paul II, as a clear manifestation of a trend in the Catholic Church of openness towards interreligious dialogue for peace and harmony among religions.
I shortly recall the Buddhist, Christian-Jewish and Islamic concepts of creation and environment and the relationship between human being and nature, being the care of the environment a common ground among those religions.
Buddhism is a didactic that deals with learning the way that leads to liberation from suffering. Buddhism represents the efforts of the whole of humanity to follow the original teaching regarding the path of liberation.
We can summarize that teaching in the following steps:
1) Do no harm;
2) Be benevolent, welcoming towards all beings;
3) Meditate deeply to get to know the depths of your heart;
4) Do not make your desire the yardstick of your choices, placing instead at the first place the adherence to the path of liberation from suffering, from human misery, which is a way of union with all human beings, with all creation.
In Buddhism, each component of the environment in which we live is called « the life I live ». Therefore, any behavior that is an aggression towards the environment, or towards my life understood in a broader sense, is an inconceivable behavior because it is equivalent to an action of self-harm from the point of view of the construction of the quality of life and, at the same time, an aggression against all other beings.
Responsibility towards creation is also fundamental within the Christian-Jewish vision of life; actually, at the second chapter of the book of Genesis we read: « The Lord God took man and put him in the garden of Eden to keep and cultivate it » (Gen 2:15). These two verbs are very significant, to solemnly codify the duty of safeguarding creation, providing a real biblical foundation of ecology and ecological culture and behavior. The story of creation continues with the breaking of harmony within man, woman and God relationship which also leads to disharmony between human beings and nature.
Christianity takes up and strengthens the messianic hope of either anthropological and ecological restoration, as a « new beginning » within human history via the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, called the « new Adam », precisely to indicate all the innovative power of His presence in history, capable of a re-foundation of the history on Earth, including a consequent ecological restoration.
Recently, Pope Francis has drawn two encyclicals that actualize the message of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ in the sense just illustrated.
In the vision of Islam, God has given full trust to the human being by assigning the mission of taking care of humanity as well as of other creatures.
Islamic law includes the rules basing the relationship between human beings and the environment among the fundamental rights and duties. It obliges to save the environment and share it with others, as well as it guarantees everyone the right to stay in a clean and beautiful area where life might be possible in peace and dignity. This is a common feature with the biblical Old Testament and therefore with the Christian-Jewish vision.
In such a context, the Catholic Universities, as repositories of culture embedded in a religious background, may play a critical role in growing a more responsible attitude and ecological expertise for a healthier planet and more peaceful and fairer society. Interreligious dialogue should be a focus for its potential role in deepening, extending and strengthening the impact on the global society.
Molari C., Teologia del pluralismo religioso, Pazzini Editore, Ravenna 2013
Pope Francis, Laudato Si’(encyclical), 2015
Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti (encyclical), 2020
Sacred text Buddism: Buddhist canon
Sacred text Judaism: Hebrew Bible
Sacred text Christianity: Christian Bible
Sacred text Islam: Quran
Cecilia Sabato is a PhD Student in Contemporary Humanism at Lumsa University (curriculum Education).
Paper presented at the Conference « Dialogo a tutto campo » organised by the Catholic Forum Roma.