The necessity of Muslim-Christian dialogue
First, let us agree on what interreligious dialogue means. Interreligious dialogue has become a technical term today. I argue that it is not a technical term in the Catholic Church’s understanding as laid down in the Second Vatican Council Documents. For the Catholic Church the term “dialogue” means simply “conversation” (colloquium). Therefore, interreligious dialogue is a friendly conversation of people of different faiths. What actually happens during that conversation will always remain a mystery, something we cannot make by ourselves, control and even understand fully. We should respect that mystery. When we try to determine in advance how the dialogue should evolve we end up in monologue (conversing to oneself) or dictatorship (dictating to people what they have to do or believe).
Secondly, we have to understand that interreligious dialogue is a means. It is destined to, it is for something. Our aim by encountering people of other faiths is not interreligious dialogue. Interreligious dialogue is the means to achieve our ultimate aim. Interreligious Dialogue becomes necessary not for itself but because it has an important aim. What is then, that aim?
The official teaching of the Catholic Church declares: “The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.” (Vatican Council II, Declaration Nostra Aetate, n.2) We note the expression “dialogue and collaboration” that shows clearly that dialogue means “conversation” and “collaboration” points to common actions. We note also the expression “through” which indicates the understanding of dialogue as a means. By having a conversation and collaboration with people of other religions Catholics seek to recognize, preserve and promote good things and values. The aim of Muslim-Christian Dialogue is therefore the promotion of Good and Values in the life of all human beings.
Another aim that makes Muslim-Christian Dialogue necessary is the unity of the human race. We enter into dialogue with people who are different from us to realize that unity of the human race. We are all one because we were created by the same divine Supreme Reality, in his image. We disfigured that unity by refusing to enter in relation with one another. Interreligious dialogue is the means to restore and maintain that unity. The Church has to foster dialogue between all people because her vocation and identity is to be the sign of unity of all the children of God. The aim of our friendly conversations with people of other faiths, with Muslims, the aim of our fraternal relationship, the aim of our collaboration in charitable works is ultimately to realize the Unity of the Human Race, gift of the One Divine Supreme Reality.
Other Christians insist on peace as the aim of interreligious dialogue. Indeed at the birth of Jesus the angels proclaim “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke2, 14) Peace means harmony, wholeness, good and feelings of love. It is absence of agitation, conflicts, wars, tensions, hatred, violent and negative feelings. Peace is what God wants for his different children. Unfortunately it’s a gift from God that is disfigured. Interreligious dialogue is our human efforts to care together for that peace. By entering into dialogue with Muslims, Christians seek to restore peace on earth, to make peace a reality.
I see a deeper aim that makes interreligious dialogue a necessity: 1. the thirst for God; 2. to establish between human beings a “You-with-me” relationship. First, a believer is not the one who knows God. It is the one who always thirsts for the divine reality: “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the human race, to see if even one is wise, if even one seeks God.” (Psalm14) the real believer is the one who is always longing for the divine, s/he wants to know God better. The more I encounter people of complete different experience of the divine the more I am puzzled. Therefore I can grow deeper and deeper in my knowledge of God. I long more and more for the Absolute. I seek God.
Secondly, the type of relationship God wants to establish between human beings is a You-with-me relationship. So far if we killed one another in families, society, and even faith communities it is because we have a “You and me” relationship (notice there is no dash between the words). You live, and I live. A “You-with-me” relationship means we are so united (notice the dash) that nothing can separate us although we are distinct. If you suffer I also feel it. If you are happy I also leap for joy. It is the type of relationship God established between Him and Human beings through Jesus Christ: He is called Emmanuel, “God-with-us (human beings)”. God is one with human beings. Thus he showed us the type of relationship we should establish between human beings. I called this relationship, a homoousiostic relationship: to be one, inseparable, of indivisible substance while distinct in our faiths. The other, because of his otherness, will always stand as an enemy. I am called to love my enemy in order to establish that oneness between us. Interreligious dialogue is the means to realize the love for the enemy and put any human being in that relation of oneness.
Interreligious dialogue is not an option for Christians. It is a necessity for those who care for their faith. It is a means to realize the vision of God about relationship of the divine with the human and of the humans between themselves. Interreligious dialogue makes us believers not the way we want but the way God wants us to be. We, thus, enter in the logic of God.