Common ground

In the work of establishing God’s kingdom on earth, we often encounter the word dialogue, which is a major transformation from the traditional church’s point of view when it comes to dealing with people of other faiths.

(Although, 50 years might seem to be a long time, but considering the church’s age, and the time when Nostra Aetatethe Church’s declaration on the relation with non-Christian religions, was promulgated on October 28, 1965 up to the present, we could say that its still fairly new.)

While for a significant time in the Church’s history, wars were waged and innocent people killed in the name of God and for the sake of converting "barbarians" and "primitive cultures" (those who are non-Catholics and Christians) into the one, true and refined Christian religion, it is still not too late for the Church to actually change and be more Christ-like in dealing with non-Christian cultures.

Even today, at a time when our church leaders call for dialogue rather than proselytization, we still find many Catholics hiding in the clout of defending the faith but sowing dissent, conflict, and animosity with people who do not subscribe to our understanding of faith, God, and Jesus Christ.

And every time we encounter criticisms against the church, we immediately shout, heretic! and declare that person to be of the devil, without even trying to listen to the criticism or to consider it in a more constructive manner, or more Christian-like, so to speak. That still happens, and just recently I was so un-Christian-like when I rebuked a so-called "defender of the faith," telling him to actually consult a psychiatrist.

Several times Pope Francis has reminded us to attract people to Christ, just like St. Therese of Lisieux, and not to proselytize or convert them to Christianity or the Catholic religion.

“(We) seek an encounter and dialogue with all who believe in God, to build together a more just and fraternal world,” he said.

(Story here, Pope Francis' General Audience of October 5, 2016)

Even earlier than that, in May 8, 2013, he said, “Paul teaches us this journey of evangelization, because Jesus did, because he is well aware that evangelization is not proselytizing: it is because he is sure of Jesus Christ and does not need to justify himself [or] to seek reasons to justify himself.” 

He reiterated that evangelization is about building bridges, not building walls, and as such, we should dialogue with everyone knowing full well that we do not have monopoly over the truth, which can only be received through an encounter with Jesus.

The paper, Dialogue with Non-Christian Religions from the Correspondence Course for Fransiscan Missionary Charism (CCFMC), is an excellent source of knowledge and input on our task to dialogue with life. It encourages us to seek for common ground, rather than to dwell on doctrines and traditions which will never be the same or could never be reconciled.

One such common ground is the field of social concern and justice, where the ‘option for the poor’ is actually a “matter of conscience for all persons of good will, for all those who believe in God whether they are Christians or not.”

In a recent conversation that I had with the secretary for ecumenical concerns of the protestant-led National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Rev. Irma Balaba of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, she informed me that all of the ecumenical linkages that they have with the Roman Catholic Church is on matters of social concern like extra-judicial killings, peace, women’s rights, illegal drugs, and justice.

This is because this is the path that would lead churches of different convictions to dialogue, to come together and talk, because after all, no Church would want poverty and misery to reign in the community where they serve or in all communities for that matter.

The paper also made mention of an encounter in dialogue where Christians and non-Christians meet to talk of the richness of their traditions and their encounter with God through their faith. It is not about knowing which tradition is better, rather it is about learning from each other.

This is also the experience that I was blessed to have in my engagements with the United Religious Initiative (URI) when I was still in Cebu City. The group sought to enrich the faith experience of each participant through each other’s encounter with their God, and it was a beautiful experience.

Truly, we can live together and we can help each other in our quest for wholeness in our desire to build God’s kingdom on earth if we magnify that which binds us and learn to accept and respect that which divides us.

What's your experience with people of other faiths, speaking, of course, from the perspective of your faith?

Photo grabbed from


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