The root of DIALOGUE is the Greek “dia” and “logos”, which means “through meaning”. Understanding Dialogue with Discussion, in Dialogue people are seeking for a more complete picture of reality rather than breaking it down into fragments or parts as happens in Discussion. Having Dialogue is not about convincing others of certain point of view; there is no emphasis on winning, but on learning, collaboration and a synthesis of different points of view instead. Dialogue is towards a community-based culture of cooperation and shared leadership. Thus, a Dialogue of Life is one of the best ways to express ourselves for mutual understanding. Without Dialogue the world would be either silent or suffered from misunderstanding voices.

Why Dialogue with other Religion? This is a burning question of the present time. Religious pluralism has been a wealth of the Asian continent; on the other hand, it has been a fertile ground for conflicts and communal violence. Although supposed to be a personal and community belief of love and peace, religion by vested interest turns out to be an erupting volcano, causing countless sufferings to the toiling masses and the already marginalized.

There must be a clear understanding that the many conflicts and problems happening around in the present world are not caused by religions themselves, but a misuse of religious ideology. Moreover, religion should not be a tool to draw boundaries, but a spirituality to overcome barriers for an inclusive ground. Looking into the social, economic, political and cultural context, youth and students should realise that Dialogue is a way to move forward to build a just society.

Though the initiation of such Dialogue is religion-based, it relies on justice for all, no matter believers or non-believers. A true Dialogue is for the abundant life of all. Peace could not be seen without Justice, which could be achieved only when everyone respects all people and everyone can Dialogue with each other. Last few year I am working with the youth and students and I believe harmony should be pursued and dialogue be practiced at the individual and grassroots levels. Living in the political tension of “minority” and “majority”, facing discrimination even by the legal instrument, and feeling insecure though there was increasing legislation of national security policies, youth and students should read the signs of time and be an instrument to develop alternatives and cultivate just peace. We have to consider that dialogue is a part of life and an ongoing journey for a person to have holistic grow. Dialogue should be a sustainable process with humanity and an integrated approach.

All religions speak about peace and harmony through forgiveness and reconciliation. Religions are positively teaching us to love neighbours including ‘enemies’. However, looking at the present situation, it is quite different and sometimes showing the opposite indications. Some people or groups even misunderstand and misuse religion. Today we are facing the same situation and struggle. Understanding that through religions, cultures are defined and spiritually inspired in history, we must acknowledge the historical fact that there are many different religions. Exclusivism is neither a solution nor an alternative, and we must stop the wider world to continue spreading this vicious circle of insanity. We must meet them, not in the old way, but with understanding and respect of their spirit of self-affirmation. Realising this burning issue, it is urgent to work with the students of different faiths and eventually build up an inter-faith students’ network. Peace through dialogue is a key to uphold justice, which is the passionate desire to motivate people to work towards peace.

All people are unique  masterpiece creation. We are born to be independence with human dignity, the aggregate rights and freedoms of all. As understood in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” This includes freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance (Article 18). At the same time, everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms without distinction or discrimination of any kind including religion.

As one of the religions, the Vatican Council in the Catholic Church declares that every human person has a right to religious freedom. It means that all people are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to her/his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others within due limits. (Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae on the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Matters Religious promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on 7 December 1965).

After the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Catholic Church became more open for dialogue between different religions. Based on clear, specific and precise guidelines rooted in the teachings of Nostra Aetate (Vatican Council II), the Catholic Church understands inter-religious dialogue with a definite meaning. In her practice the Church approaches inter-religious dialogue in different ways: reciprocal communication, attitude of mutual respect and friendship, constructive common action, obedience to truth which transcends all and respect for freedom of conscience.

Pope John Paul II said, “The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God”. The Catholic Church in Asia (FABC 7th Plenary Assembly, Jan 2000) regards inter-religious dialogue as a priority in local Churches. The Federation of Asian Bishop’s Conference (FABC) is very much concerned about inter-faith issues; therefore, the Church encourages every Christian to enter into dialogue with other religions. The goal of dialogue is to bring both partners within closer reach of complete salvation. A continuation of awareness-raising and advocacy should be pursued.

In the past, the global community understood peace as the absence of conflict and war. However, in Pope Benedict XVI’s message of World Day of Peace entitled “IN TRUTH PEACE”, peace embodies its own truthfulness because of its undeniably “intrinsic and invincible truth” (no. 3) for reasons that peace corresponds “to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us.” (nos. 3, 6) Second, the truth about peace is that it is “the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder…which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice.”

Presently,  I am working with the Youth Net which is interfaith youth network. During our meetings we feel and every one we realize that religious freedom is basic human rights. Respect to religion is an attitude for justice. So inter-faith issues, developing network with different faiths and organising training on inter-religious dialogue are given priority. Youth and students must continue to play the prophetic role to denounce any unjust practices. There must be efforts on critical study of the current realities and effective strategy-planning for structural changes to ensure fairer and non-discriminative means of distribution of the world resources amongst all people and all nations of different religions. The intellect and skills of students should be developed along with Dialogue. Hence, the necessary condition of Dialogue is a mutual respect for the identity and belief of each party and the elimination of any impediments. The intention of Dialogue is not to create one common religion, but harmony with diversity.

Bipul Alite Gonsalves  is Executive Secretary for Programmes, The National Council of YMCAs of Bangladesh, National Director, Y’Net, Interfaith Youth Network, and Regional Coordinator, EASY Net (Ecumenical Asia Pacific Students and Youth Network)

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