For the years I spent in Colombia (Latin America) and the other years spent in Kenya, INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE has never been a real issue. It’s a course done at the University and in some cases it’s not an obligatory course since it’s really not a urgent issue at hand. We well live our faiths and no one sees such a big necessity to initiate a dialogue with other faiths existent in those parts of the world. That’s pretty much the same case in many parts of Europe. The basic reason being that Christianity is always the dominant faith in those said contexts and so much perceived urgency to persue a dialogue with the other faiths, after all the do co-exist quite in harmony (in many cases).
Now here in Asia, this golden phrase “INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE” seems to be an inevitable asset. Right from the word go, your mind strarts operating on questions without answers, not realizing that the others whom you have encountered here are undergoing the same process with regards to your faith. For instance they cant just understand why on earth you have left your country to come over here? To do what? And those vows you have (chastity, poverty and obedience) are for what reason if you are not just crazy? And the Eucharist, what really is that?
Same questions am asking myself about the faiths encountered here: who is God for them? What is heaven for them? What do the many symbols in their temples mean? Why is Buddha both male and female? etc.
Now when we get to chat with the other concerning such fundamental questions, then you come to realize the value of Inter-religious dialogue. We both learn form each other. It is a wi-win situation here. Respect and prudence are the key words. Pray for us as we adjust the strategies and not the goals posts.