St Abraham’s is also a place of encounter and dialogue with those of different faiths. This is sometimes a surprise for those who have become accustomed to age old divisions and barriers between religious groups. We have no illusions concerning the differences concerning our beliefs about humanity and God and that mutual understanding and acceptance is not always easy. As Christians however we are called to meet and exchange our ideas and beliefs with those of different faiths. It is simply part of being Christian.
The church certainly has a mission to teach others of how God saves us through Our Lord Jesus Christ. This one true religion subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all people. However with our respect for religious liberty we are opposed to any kind of proselytism as in one way or other, it is a form of coercion. We believe that there should be no coercion in religion and therefore all have the right to freely and without pressure chose their own religion at any time.
While holding to our beliefs we do not reject those who follow a different way to God but recognize a mission of meeting and working towards mutual understanding with them.The Vatican Council for inter-religious dialogue gives some reflections in its documents which are available on the Vatican web site of the “Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue”
(DIALOGUE AND PROCLAMATION
Reflection And Orientatiions Dialogue and Proclamation On Interreligious DialogueAnd The Proclamation Of The Gospel Of Jesus Christ) “Interreligious Dialogue” takes place in different ways. It is not just limited as some would have it, to the theological specialist and theological debate (number 3 below). Rather four forms of dialogue are identified.
1. The "dialogue of life": where people try to live in a neighbourly spirit with the person of a different faith, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations.
2. The "dialogue of action": Where Christians and others work together for improvement of life, freedom and dignity.
3. The "dialogue of theological exchange" : where specialists try have a greater understanding of each other's religion and spiritual values
4. The "dialogue of religious experience": where we share our religious experience of prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God.
In our meetings with people of other faiths, we need to be strong in our own faith but we also come with humility and respect. We recognize that all real prayer comes through the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person we encounter.
Our meetings may be very small efforts but it is the small seed of the Kingdom of God, which is powerful. Our meetings may sometimes be met with cynicism but Jesus is our model and guide in the commitment to both proclamation and dialogue. Is he not the only one who even today can say to the other sincere religious person “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”