French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue discusses the challenges of the job with Chicago Tribune religion reporter Manya A. Brachear.
Q: You serve as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. What is interreligious dialogue?
A: First of all, you have to remember that interreligious dialogue is not dialogue between religions. It's dialogue between believers. It's not a theological, philosophical exercise. First you have to accept that we live in a world that's plural: culture, religion, education, scientific research. Every human being has a religious dimension. Between believers we try first of all to know each other. And the first thing you have to do is to proclaim your faith because you can not build that dialogue on ambiguity.
When we are understood, we have to see what separates us and what unites us and to put those commonalities at the service of society. Dialogue is not for the consumption of the community. It's at the service of society. And remember that man doesn't live only on bread. There are spiritual dimensions. Believers have a special role to play in the public dialogue.
Q: Since Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion, can Buddhists play a role in interreligious dialogue?
A: Oh, yes. Buddhism, Islam, African religions. In Europe, Islam is problem No. 1.
Q: How is it a problem?
A: There is a lot of ignorance. People are afraid because they don't know each other. And of course, terrorism. Some radical Islamists don't give a good image of Islam, so people are afraid. So it's very important to dialogue, to know each other. What does the Quran say? What does the Muslim say?
You see, you have four modalities. First of all: the dialogue of life, which is when, for instance, you are living in an apartment building and you have a Muslim family living next to you. They invite you for Ramadan. You invite them for Christmas, and you discover everyday life.
Then you have the dialogue of action. You are the member of a sacred union. You take part in some charitable organization.
Then you have, when possible, theological dialogue. You try to understand one religious concept or another.
Then you have the exchange of spiritual experience between monks. It's a technique of dialogue: meditation. It's important to see there is a part of humanity that can see the root of reality, which is God for us. What is lacking in today's world is interior life.
- Manya A. Brachear
French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran sees great value in interreligious dialogue (Chicago Tribune)