World Mission Sunday 22nd October 2023
“A life unlike your own can be your teacher” – St Columban
At this time when so many communities in the Middle East, Ukraine and elsewhere around the world are convulsed by conflict, diversity is often seen as a challenge to be met rather than an opportunity to be taken. This World Mission Sunday we would like to highlight the role of the Columbans in fostering inter-religious dialogue.
Inter-religious dialogue has been an integral part of the Missionary Society of St Columban’s understanding of mission for many years as the best way to build relations, promote peace, develop mutual understanding, build harmony, and work collaboratively for the welfare of all people and all creation.
Fr Frank Hoare, who has worked among Fijians and Indians, as well as Christians and Hindus explains the importance of this kind of missionary outreach. “I treasure the image of a Columban missionary as a bridge-builder. I am fascinated by culture and captivated by faith. I rejoice when I make friends with people of different cultures and faiths. When I am able to deepen the respect and acceptance of people for each other. I truly experience myself as a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Inter-religious dialogue takes place at a number of levels, one of which is best described as a Dialogue of Life, where people share as neighbours and friends the common challenges and experiences of life.
One example of the Dialogue of Life is the Health and Welfare Project in Pakistan. Columban missionary Fr Liam O’Callaghan oversees this interfaith initiative in Lahore which offers healthcare to those in need, be they Muslim or Christian. Read more about it here: https://columbans.ie/fr-liam-ocallaghan-and-the-health-welfare-project-in-pakistan/
Another interfaith project closer to home which the Columbans support and are very active in is the Dublin City Interfaith Forum (DCIF). The DCIF brings together members of seven different faith communities (Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jewish and Sikh) and seeks to build relationships and understanding between groups and to work together on common issues. Read more about it here: https://www.dcif.ie/
Unfortunately, one of these issues has been the marked increase in racist and religious hate incidents in Ireland. The Forum has developed a programme to help communities deal with this challenge and works also with local communities, schools, hospitals, the Gardaí and local authorities to help make Dublin a welcome place for diverse and vibrant new communities.
“Jesus constantly went beyond borders of every kind and affirmed the humanity of all,” Bishop Vincent Long of Australia has said.
“In so doing, he invites us to step beyond our fears, our tribal confines and to expand the boundaries of our love. Our mission as Christians is to make peace, to nurture goodwill, and to facilitate unity in the face of economic and social inequality, cultural polarisation and fragmentation. We can be the places that refuse to be tribal, that create spaces of welcome and encounter and address mutual suspicion.”
“Whether we are Franks, Irish or Britons or whatever people, we are all one”