Celebrating harmony in diversity through dialogue


As part of the Catholic Church’s preparation for the celebration of the 500th year of Christianity in the islands, it has designated this year as the year of “Ecumenism, Inter-religious Dialogue, and Indigenous People.”

It also aptly designated its theme as Dialogue Towards Harmony with the year focusing on three goals, namely: to celebrate human fraternity by promoting the culture of dialogue as a path to peace; to work for unity and harmony while respecting diversity; and to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ identities, spiritualities and ancestral domain.

Around 50 years ago, before Vatican II, this would have been impossible, as then the church has been so exclusive, always believing that outside the church there is no salvation. But after Vatican II, with such significant documents as Nostra Aetate and Unitatis Redintegratio, the tide has shifted towards recognizing the presence of God in other faith traditions.

The first document encourages dialogue with other religious faiths (e.g. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism), while the latter calls for the promotion of unity of all Christian faiths (e.g. Protestantism and the Orthodox churches).

But, perhaps, we could say that the most potent document today that we can use to inspire us to work for harmony and dialogue with other faith traditions is the document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” signed early 2019 in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb.

The document begins with this premise: “Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.”

From here we are challenged by the statement that “Dialogue among believers means coming together in the vast space of spiritual, human and shared social values and, from here, transmitting the highest moral virtues that religions aim for. It also means avoiding unproductive discussions,” which means that we should not dwell on what divides us but strengthen that which unites us.

We do not evangelize by condemning with words or actions the practices of the other which we deem to contradict ours, rather we evangelize with love by showing the other the selfless and altruistic love of Christ that transcended nations, race, religious or political beliefs.

Our understanding of our faith, that is the teaching of Christ as passed on by his apostles to us and of their successors, is dependent on how these teachings were passed on to us based on the context of the times.

At the time of the apostles, faith was transmitted in secret as it was frowned upon and even considered treason to talk of Christ. Eventually, when it was allowed to be practiced openly and eventually to be declared by the emperor as the official religion of the state, it started to take the appearance of the state and governed as such, up until today. This freedom also resulted in the eventual division of the body of Christ - the Church - and for various reasons, often taking the pretense of doctrinal differences. Then the devil rode into the conflict and planted the seed of arrogance into the hearts of men, and the division even worsened.

We no longer live in a world that strives on dominance through violence. When the Spanish conquerors forced our indigenous ancestors to embrace their way of life and their religion through the sword and the cross, today, we bring the Good News of the cross of Christ by following the footsteps of Christ in the humble attitude of submitting ourselves to dialogue in order to promote a culture of love and peace.

We now live in a world blessed with instruments of peace, harmony, love, faith, and the fear of God. 

This year of ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, and indigenous peoples, let us be instruments of God’s shalom by allowing ourselves to be channels of God’s kaginhawahan for all of God’s creation. Let us strive to follow the footsteps of Christ who showed us to not just love those whom we can easily love, but more importantly those people who for us are difficult to love – people like those who differ in belief from us.

Love is the universal language of peace. Let us be channels of God’s love and by doing so, be bearers of Christ to the rest of the world. This is the dialogue that we need, the dialogue of love, and only through this would we be able to celebrate harmony in our diversity.

Photo: From the net.


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