Encounter with Religious Leaders of South Korea
Religions and Conviviality in the Midst of Diversity
Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran
24 May 2011
Excellencies, Religious Leaders, Distinguished Guests!
I would like to express also my personal joy in being here for the first time as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Vatican, to visit your beautiful country and to enjoy the warmth of Korean delicate hospitality.
On this precious occasion I would like to talk about the Role of Religions in Establishing Peaceful Conviviality in the midst of Diversity.
We live and develop in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. To say this is to state the obvious. There is no religiously homogenous society. In Europe, and it is also the case in your County, from kindergarten onwards, young children rub shoulders with companions of all origins and different religious affiliations. There is nothing surprising about this if one thinks of what Paul Tillich wrote: “Religion is the substance of culture”. History knows no non-religious cultures!
There is a new awareness which is almost universal and that is to say that peoples of our times are convinced they belong to the same family, the human family. They know they belong to a common humanity and sometimes such conviction can generate the feeling, the conviction that a natural religion exists without dogma or fanaticism.
Pope Jean-Paul II’s Encyclical Fides et Ratio 1affirms: “In God there lies the origin of all things, in him is found the fullness of the mystery, and in this his glory consists; to men and women there falls the task of exploring truth with their reason, and in this their nobility consists”.
Pope Benedict in his speech in Regensburg on September 12th 2006, observed that: “‘In the beginning was the ‘λογος’ (‘logos’). Logos means both reason and word — a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. […] A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion to the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures”.
Thus we are in a world in which because of material and human precariousness, the dangers of war and the hazards of the environment, in the face of the failure of the great political systems of the past century, men and women of this generation are once again asking themselves the essential questions on the meaning of life and death, on the meaning of history and of the consequences that amazing scientific discoveries might bring in their wake. It had been forgotten that the human being is the only creature who asks questions and questions himself. It is remarkable that Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council, should underline this aspect of things in its introduction: “Men look to their different religions for an answer to the unsolved riddles of human existence. The problems that weigh heavily on the hearts of men are the same today as in past ages.
What is man? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is upright behaviour, and what is sinful? Where does suffering originate, and what end does it serve? How can genuine happiness be found?”.
Thus, we are all condemned to dialogue. What is dialogue? It is the search for an inter-understanding between two individuals with a view to a common interpretation of their agreement or their disagreement. It implies a common language, honesty in the presentation of one’s position and the desire to do one’s utmost to understand the other’s point of view.
Applied to interreligious dialogue, these presuppositions make it easier to understand that in the context of religion it is not a question of being “kind” to others in order to please them! Nor is it a matter of negotiation: I find the solution to problems and the matter is closed. In interreligious dialogue it is a question of taking a risk, not of giving up my own convictions but of letting myself be called into question by the convictions of another, accepting to take into consideration arguments different than my own or those of my community. All religions, each one in its own way, strive to respond to the enigmas of the human condition. Each religion has its own identity but this identity enables me to take the religion of the other into consideration. It is from this that dialogue is born. Identity, otherness and dialogue go together. But be careful: we do not say “all religions are of equal value”. We say “All those in search of God have equal dignity”!
One can say that from the end of the Second Vatican Council to our own day, Catholics have moved on from tolerance to encounter, to arrive at dialogue:
— dialogue of life: good neighbourly relations with non-Christians which encourage the sharing of joys and troubles;
— dialogue of works: collaboration with a view to the well-being of both groups, especially people who live alone, in poverty or sickness;
— dialogue of theological exchanges: permits experts to understand in depth the respective religious heritages;
— dialogue of spiritualities: makes available the riches of the life of prayer of both to all, in both groups;
Interreligious dialogue therefore mobilizes all those who are on their way towards God or towards the Absolute.
Believers who carry on this kind of dialogue do not pass unnoticed. They are a society’s wealth. Since citizens who adhere to a religion are the majority, there is a “religious fact” that is essential, to the extent that all religious faith is practised in the heart of a community (the “confessions”)! By their number, by the length of their traditions, by the visibility of their institutions and their rites, believers are present and can be identified. They are appreciated or they are opposed, but they never leave one indifferent, which encourages their leaders to get along with other communities of believers without losing their identity and to meet each other without antagonism. Civil authorities must only take note of the religious fact, watch in order to guarantee the effective respect for freedom of conscience and religion, and only intervene if this freedom is damaging to the freedom of non-believers or disturbs public order and health.
But more positively, it is always in the interest of leaders of societies to encourage interreligious dialogue and to draw on the spiritual and moral heritage of religions for a number of values likely to contribute to harmony, to encounters between cultures and to the consolidation of the common good. Moreover all religions, in different ways, urge their followers to collaborate with all those who endeavour to:
— assure respect for the dignity of the human person and his fundamental rights;
— develop a sense of brotherhood and mutual assistance;
— draw inspiration from the “know-how” of communities of believers who, at least once a week, gather together millions of widely differing people in the context of their worship in authentic spiritual communion;
— help the men and women of today to avoid being enslaved by fashion, consumerism and profit alone.
Unfortunately, however, other factors contribute to fostering a fear of religions:
— the fact that we are very often ignorant of the content of other religions;
— the fact that we have not met the believers of other religions;
— our reticence in confronting other believers for the simple reason that we have not very clear ideas about our own religion!
— and then, of course, the acts of violence or terrorism perpetrated in the name of a religion.
And, further, the difficulties encountered in practising their faith by believers belonging to minority groups in countries where a majority religion enjoys a privileged status because of history or law.
In order to remedy this situation it is necessary to:
— have a clear-cut spiritual identity: to know in whom and in what one believes;
— consider the other not as a rival, but as a seeker of God;
— to agree to speak of what separates us and of the values that unite us.
For example if we consider the relationship of Christianity with Buddhism we can find many points of converging convictions as we read in the Declaration Nostre Aetatae:
“Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination.” (N. 2)
I feel the need to indicate also some concrete areas of life where Christians and Buddhists can contribute together effectively to the common good of society:
— First, by witnessing to a life of prayer, both individual and communal, recalling that “Man does not live on bread alone”. In our world today it is a must to stress and to show the necessity of an interior life.
— Secondly, Christians and Buddhists faithful to their spiritual commitments can help to understand better that freedom of religion means much more than to have a Church or a Temple at their disposal (this is obvious and the minimum one can ask for) but it is also to have the possibility to take part in public dialogue through culture (of schools, universities) and also through political and social responsibilities in which believers must be models.
— Thirdly, Together Christians and Buddhists must not hesitate to defend the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the family.
— Fourthly, They should not refrain from uniting their efforts fighting against illiteracy and disease.
— Fifthly, They have the common responsibility to provide moral formation for youth.
— Finally, they must be peacemakers and teach the pedagogy of peace in the family, in the church and in temples, at school and at university.
Such a context is favourable for calmly tackling ancient, thorny “subjects”: the question of the human person’s rights; the principle of freedom of conscience and of religion; reciprocity with regard to places of worship.
Worth reiterating, what engenders fear is above all a lack of knowledge of the other. It is necessary for us to first become acquainted with one another in order to love one another and to collaborate! This is God’s will.
Finally, I should say that believers of all religions are heralds of a two-fold message:
1. Only God is worthy of adoration. Therefore all the idols made by men (wealth, power, appearance, hedonism) constitute a danger for the dignity of the human person, God’s creature.
2. In God’s sight, all men and women belong to the same race, to the same family. They are all called to freedom and to encounter Him after death.
If I may say so, believers are prophets of hope. They do not believe in fate. They know that gifted by God with a heart and intelligence, they can with His help, change the course of history in order to orientate their life according to the project of the Creator: that is to say, make of humanity an authentic family of which each one of us is a member.
But having said that, we must be humble. We have not explained God! We have to stop on the threshold of mystery, “the Mystery of God where man is grasped instead of grasping, where he worships instead of reasoning, where he himself is conquered, instead of conquering” (Karl Rahner).
 Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council, no. 1.