Whenever people hear about ecumenism or inter- faith dialogue certain feelings and quizzical moods begin to be felt. Certainly, a good section of people who experience anxieties with these concepts are not aware of what they mean and their purpose. There are a lot of fears that are felt by those who are assigned or rather find themselves in this mission. Great figures in the Catholic faith like Blessed John Paul II, in his Encyclical letter, ‘ Redemptoris Missio’ addressed the issues concerning interreligious dialogue, The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, made tireless trips across the continents in the effort of preaching oneness and benevolence in distinguished religions. Finally, a singular figure comes in to enhance and propel this mission, His Holiness Pope Francis I, following his sentiments on this, ‘ecumenism is not an option’ but an obligation, religion is “All for one and one for all”. He slashes out enmity within religions by saying that, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you” (Leadership, Feb. 2014). Religion, (Islam, Christianity, Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant, Anglican among others), is an ordinary way to salvation and it’s the only entity that possesses the fullness of the means to salvation. This definitely should guarantee the fact that each religion is meaningful on its own and is indispensable to its followers. Speaking of ecumenism does not mean to incite people to vehemently defend their religions and repel other religions. It is an opportunity to share and help overcome the negative perceptions of other religious groups. This mission is also important as it expresses how the church and various individuals are putting in efforts to enlighten people and aid them to overcome doubts, first about their faith and then other people’s faith.
In the Church calendar, eighteenth to twenty fifth January has been set as a week of prayer for Christian unity. Important to realize here in the Catholic calendar is the feast of the confession of Saint Peter which falls on the eighteenth of January, towards the end is the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul falling on the twenty fifth of January that marks the summit of the week of Christian prayer. These are two feasts that present an element of the beginning of new life. Equally important to note is that, not only the church invites us to this, but even the United Nations invites the whole world to be united. This clearly shows what Christian unity means to the whole world.
The main idea behind interfaith dialogue as mentioned earlier is to enhance better relations, unity, cooperation, respect and understanding of the various religions. This concerns all denominations ranging from traditional religions to modern forms of religion. Inter religious dialogue calls us to focus more on what is shared in common with the “ other”. This will create oneness and amiability rather than unhealthy divisions. The world today relies on these religious denominations; they are the anchors of peace and harmony across the world. Apparently, the repercussions of lack of unity among denominations is clearly seen in The Central African Republic (C.A.R) and Nigeria where there is a dangerous fight between Muslims and Christians with dire consequences that are leaving hordes of humanity in anguish. Moreover, tensions are building up in a number of countries across the continent.
We are called upon to be conscious of other denominations and to foster respect and peaceful interactions. Divisions are never benefiting they are rather the source of turmoil and tribulations.
Compiled by: Christopher Namara, John Paul Ngabirano and Ian James Bwire