Issue 4:

In this Issue:
Focus on Chad

Reports from Jesuits in:
Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, Philippines, Spain, Turkey, Venezuela, Zimbabwe






THE CULTURE OF DIALOGUE
Talk given by Fr. General at "Fe y Alegria", Venezuela, 2/6/1998.

The need for communication as authentic dialogue was one of the happy intuitions of Pope John XXIII when he decided to convene the Second Vatican Council at the beginning of the second half of this century. The theme of dialogue developed into one of the main refrains of the Council, especially in the documents that concern determining the relations of the Church with the world. Thus, it is not a coincidence that in the encyclical Ecclesiam suam, Paul VI, the Pope elected during the years of the Council, outlined the direction his pontificate would take, indicating dialogue as the basic attitude by which the Christian faith should relate to the world.

Cultures and the Society of Jesus

In speaking of culture we are not going to refer to culture only in the sense of a mass of understandings which a person or group may have. We understand as culture more the way that a people has of living in the world, of relating to nature, with others, and with God. It involves in addition constructed paradigms, at the same time both personal and collective, which are lived and transmitted in order to make possible and express human life. For this reason, the theme of a culture of dialogue must address all that is necessary and desirable for a life with dignity for all human persons.

Attention to and critical assimilation and promotion of emerging and traditional cultures has been part of the charism that has characterized the Society of Jesus throughout its history. Ignatius of Loyola knew how to sense the cultural trends of his time, starting with the emerging values of the Renaissance in the closing years of the Middle Ages, the Baroque as the Jesuit style, the opening of Europe to the Enlightenment, and sensibility to the values of cultures which then considered exotic, such as those of India (De Nobili,) China (Matteo Ricci,) and the splendid Paraguay Reductions here in America.

But today it is not a matter of remaining either in the glories or the errors of the past. We must open ourselves to respond to the newness of our times. It is also a matter of inviting many others to open themselves as well to the dynamics of these new times: the global village made possible by the so-called "information revolution," the proliferation of the electronic media, the new ways of learning and understanding, the rising beyond a culture of only written, read and spoken words to a form of communication which is more intuitive and affective in its interpretation of the world and towards a discourse centered more on the image.

Challenges of the present

The urgency of dialogue as a form of culture arises above all from the contemplation of the planet earth in the shadow of the third Christian millennium: 5 billion human beings - Christians (1.95 billion), Muslims (1 billion,) Hindus (777 million), Buddhists (341 million), members of new religious movements (128 million), followers of indigenous religions (99 million), Jews (14 million), and persons without any religious affiliation (1.1 billion). It is a world in which, along with fervent religious fundamentalists, one also notes a marked weariness with recent collective utopias. The search is beginning for various paths of interior experience and personal salvation, in the face of both the exhaustion and inspiration of the promises of scientific-technical modernity.

How can one position oneself and respond to so many situations, in critical, dialogical openness, conscious of the burden of the needs of consumer expansion of the large and omnipresent liberal economies and prejudices based on ethnic group, class, gender, or religion? How to respond with true humanity and wisdom to so much intolerance and misconceptions that mark so deeply the so-called "global village?"

The essence of dialogue

The Society of Jesus has always sought the answer to these questions in Christian revelation: the fundamental analogy of the relation with the other, of authentic dialogue, which we find in the relationship between the Christian God and the human person. Not only does God take the initiative in beginning the dialogue (1 Jn 4:10), speaking to men and women as a friend (Dei Verbum 2), making known to them his very inner nature and designs of plentitude for humanity, but in the culmination of this dialogue God identifies himself with humanity, making himself human in Christ, healing and making his own all that is good in the human person and in creation.

This is the deepest analogy of dialogue which is moved by love and waits respectfully before human liberty. This liberty of the human person may respond to the dialogue initiated by God through a free and total response of faith. From this horizon, the human position becomes transparent before the world and before the immense variety of its cultures. From here it is possible to understand the relationship between Gospel and culture which is the foundation of all our discourse.

The Christian is not only open to the other but should be ready to take the initiative to enter into dialogue with other persons and cultures. He or she does not fear the sincere and respectful manifestation of themselves, since dialogue is only possible when one begins from a clear sense of identity and the revelation of one's own mystery. However, the one who dialogues not only speaks but also listens, and is open to the mystery of the other, to the point of identifying with the other and making one's own all that is truly human in the other. Only through in-culturation - placing oneself inside the other's manner of being - can one become inter-cultural.

With this we arrive at the fruit of dialogue: the encounter. On this dialectic of self-revelation and faith is based the possibility of true encounter between persons, peoples, and cultures. The encounter which comes to pass in this dialogue is a moment of human fullness: in it one realizes the union of intelligence and love (Ecclesiam Suam, 85).

The attitude of dialogue, inspired by Christian faith, moves one to bring together all that is good in the world and in the human person. One rejoices when one is enriched with the elements of truth and goodness received from the other (GS 44) and when one appreciates as one's own something in common among all persons and cultures (GS 42). By virtue of its mission, a readiness to dialogue tends towards becoming a sign of fraternity which permits and gives a strong foundation for dialogue between nations, races and cultures (GS 92).

Subjects of the dialogue

The first task to face in this "culture of dialogue" which the pluralistic reality of our world requires is the formation of the subjects of this demanding dialogue.

We who are preparing ourselves as subjects in this emerging culture of dialogue find ourselves in a difficult situation. The structures and authoritarian methods of societies and the way information is disseminated - the so-called media which play such a powerful role in shaping the subjectivity of the citizens of the planet - display a very different reality from the Christian ideal of dialogue which we have sketched out. For this reason, the coordinated action of all Christians and persons of good will is required to bring about a true liberty and equality of rights for the communication of information and its interpretation.

In today's world, the rich nations dominate the world with their information, films, television programs and networks, and communications satellites. What reigns is not respect for the other, but rather the domination of the other. Such controls over commerce, politics or ideological manipulation will only be counterbalanced in our countries with the effort and the response of organized citizens who do not take on the role of passive and manipulated receivers, but who aspire, rather, to be active members of a true cultural dialogue.

Only in this way will the voices, the images and the viewpoints of the less powerful and poorer countries, groups, and cultures be present in other areas and in the global village. The problem of overcoming injustice and domination confronts also the problem of justice in communication, moving painstakingly towards a more equitable and respectful dialogue between peoples.

The subjects of this necessary dialogue which we are and should be becoming, are in first place persons who through their normal daily concrete relations - of family, friendship, neighborhood, work, community, nation - should grow in transparency, openness, an ability to listen, affective appreciation, and the capacity to evaluate and decide together about situations and processes.

In this way, the more global discourse of dialogue which is required will have roots and a future in rich, lived human experience.

Fear and defensiveness, so often the source and explanation for the lies and deceit which poison the atmosphere of personal and social noncommunication, can be overcome. The contribution of Christian faith can be basic in this first phase of personal and communitarian experience of authentic dialogue.

Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.

Fr. General's talk will be continued in the next issue of Jesuits in Dialogue. The complete text in Spanish can be obtained by writing this Secretariat.

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SCIENCE, RELIGION AND DEVELOPMENT: A DIALOGUE

l would like to share with brother Jesuits information and reflections on a dialogue in which I personally - and several other Jesuits indirectly - have been involved in recent years. The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), based in Ottawa, Canada, a widely respected government-related agency devoted to research on development in the poorest regions of the world, has initiated a program of research on how to integrate local religious/spiritual and cultural values into their development research paradigm. This initiative came in response to complaints on the part of Muslim leaders that IDRC's research followed a Western bias in that it did not take local Islamic values into account.

On behalf of IDRC and with the support of Father General, I carried out informal interviews in 28 countries in East and South East Asia, Africa and Latin America in February-July, 1994, with persons from very diverse religious, cultural, academic and geographical backgrounds who had personal involvement and experience in the development process in their countries. Among the 188 interviews were 66 Jesuits. Jesuit communities everywhere served as generous hosts and valuable advisors and guides during my visits.

I was surprised how readily professional and experienced persons on three continents - strangers for the most part - were willing to share frankly and often enthusiastically their personal, off-the-record experiences, convictions and beliefs concerning the relationship between development (embracing the cultural and natural sciences) and religious values and systems. There was wide consensus profoundly questioning the validity of 'correct' neo-liberal economic thinking as it is presently applied in their countries.

Those interviewed were not ideologues and few had ready-made alternatives to offer; but they were searching for broader alternative approaches to development, ones that include a critical handling of cultural and spiritual values. I say critical handling because most of those interviewed had no illusions about how easily cultural and religious values can be frozen into external forms and institutions that often betray their original meaning. My finds and recommendations were published by IDRC under the title Culture, Spirituality, and Economic Development: Opening a Dialogue (Ottawa, 1995). It can be found on the Internet at: http://www.idrc.ca/books/focus/782/782.htm.

In August, 1995, Pierre Beemans, vice-president of IDRC committed the organization to a follow-up project entitled "Science, Religion, and Development." Early members of the small core group for this project are:

Dr. Farzam Arbab, director. He is a physicist by profession, Bahai. Dr. Azizah Baharuddin, biologist. She is professor at the University of Malaysia, Muslim. Dr. Gregory Baum. He is a sociologist of religion teaching at McGill University, Christian. Dr. Promila Kapur. She is a consultant sociologist and counselor therapist, Director of Integrated Human Development Services Foundation in New Delhi, Hindu.

I will serve as assistant to Dr. Arbab to help the IDRC staff keep the project on track. The group first met last October at the Bahai Landeg Academy in Switzerland. The hours and days passed all too quickly as participants shared their faith, science and experience with economic/human development. They quickly came to know and trust one another and enthusiastically accepted the challenge given them to try to find a framework and language within which to relate or integrate their faith, scientific knowledge and experience in the area of development. They will continue their dialogue and reflection through email as well as with local friends and interested scholars. At a second stage, a wider and still more diverse group will be invited into this dialogue. The fruit of all this dialogue and reflection will be brought together in a final international conference and publication in 1999.

What has struck me in being associated with this non-conventional research process is how consistent it is with the Jesuit approach to dialogue with cultures and religions endorsed by GC34.

My informal interviews revealed how many professional people presently have public or professional views that are substantially at odds with their private, off-the-record views. It seems that a growing number of these persons are willing to begin to examine the pre-analytic vision or assumptions they bring to their science and professional work in the public forum. The only methodology available to handle this new search is free, honest, open-ended dialogue that begins by fostering mutual trust and later fearless creativity as age-old visions and mindsets start - in a process of conversion - to give way to radically new pre-analytic visions and assumptions. Growing ecological concern is one of the principal drives and catalysts in this process. I believe that this latest IDRC project will prove a pathfinder and a beacon for many searchers and researchers in the field of development in poorer regions of the world.

Paragraph 49 of GC34 makes me completely at home in being involved in this challenging process: "In the light of these reflections, we can now say of our contemporary mission that the faith that does justice is, inseparably, the faith that engages other traditions in dialogue, and the faith that evangelizes culture."

Bill Ryan, S.J.

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REFLECTIONS ON INTERRELIGIOUS AND ECUMENICAL DIALOGUE

[Ed. note. We present here the conclusions of a longer paper prepared by Fr. Aguiló entitled "Interreligious Dialogue, Ecumenism, and the Society of Jesus." The complete text, in Spanish, can be obtained by writing our Secretariat.]

On many occasions we must forget a bit of the letter of the canons and not take them in the strict sense. We have to go beyond them and make the effort to find practical, lived positions among the members of the different Christian groups. We must not be content to remain in merely theoretical discussions nor simply to plan more Congresses for specialists which end up with general conclusions that become known only by privileged scholars, while the divisions among the churches remain the same. This is so much more true concerning our separation from non-Christian religions. The danger is that we remain at the level of meditations, theoretical discussions and words. The Document Our Mission and Interreligious Dialogue affirms: "The Ignatian vision of reality... makes us sensitive to the sacred space of God's direct dealing with human persons in history" (OMID, 17).

2. The cases of practical resolutions in the Base Communities, however, are becoming ever more frequent. We have contemplated with admiration what happened in the case of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was a woman who was far removed from discussions and theories. She avoided difficult discussions more proper to intellectuals. She desired simply to follow Jesus, to love Him and to do what He had taught us: to love others, especially the most abandoned, the marginalized, the pariahs, the sick, prisoners, foreigners, etc. And she did. This was for her the essence of ecumenism. Men and women from all religions - even agnostics and atheists - followed her and sought her out. And she would receive them with her sisters dressed in the sari typical of the Indians of Ghandi. She herself told the following story: "When I visited China in 1989, a leader of the Communist party asked me: 'Mother Teresa, what is a Communist for you?' and I answered him: 'A child of God, one of my brothers.' 'Well! You have a high opinion of us, where does it come from?' 'From God himself,' I answered him. It was He who said: 'I assure you that whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers, you did it for Me.'"

When she died, ecumenical love took full advantage of her death. Teresa of Calcutta was considered a women of the State, the Indian State. She received a funeral worthy of a Chief of State. Millions of people of all the Eastern religions acclaimed her and accompanied her: Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians of wide variety. This is the clearest example of "grass-roots" Ecumenism.

Teresa of Calcutta had accomplished through her heroic practice of charity, open to all races, what all the Vatican commissions, or special secretaries for ecumenism of the religious orders and congregations had never accomplished.

This form of dialogue and ecumenism consists in accepting respectfully and with love men and women of whatever Christian confession, or of whatever religion, and knowing how to listen to them, to dialogue with them and to pray together with them. It is something like what we do within "specialized" groups of Catholics, or with groups which differ from us in different "shades" of faith or in its practice (Orders, Religious Congregations, Institutes).

As one theologian says: "Sometimes I have arrived at the moment of endorsing the generous suggestion of Karl Rahner, that, at least regarding the great confessions, in place of so much ecumenical discussion looking for uniformity, we unite ourselves as one living Church through respect for the differences between us."

I wanted to try a simple, practical experiment in dialogue and ecumenism, inviting to this meeting various non-Catholic friends, pastors, leaders and captains who live here, including those with whom I have practiced ecumenism in Magaluf and Palma Nova: the Anglican Church, the Salvation Army, the Bahai Faith. They made known to us their points of view on dialogue and ecumenism and explore the possibility of meetings between them and us in other situations.

It seems to me that unity among all religions is a dream which is practically impossible. In a certain sense, we could be content that we now can coexist and live together without violence, dialoguing from time to time. Unity among all Christians is also a utopia for now. There is a World Council of Churches. The Catholic Church does not take part in this Council. I believe that the Catholic Church takes part at the meetings as an "Observer." I believe, moreover, that the evolution within the different forms of the Christian religion is, in fact, increasing the distance between them. We had fewer difficulties before, because we had fewer differences. The ordination of women as priests and bishops has created a real wall between the churches, a wall with a moat around it!

A gathering of all groups could only be realized with the fall of all the structures which have been created and accumulating in the course of the twenty centuries of Christian history. That would include returning, even in higher structures, to the Jesus Christ of the Gospels, to Peter at Pentecost, to the Apostles living simply and in poverty. But this is also an illusion, a dream, even though it might be our desire.

Nevertheless, unity should not remain merely a great collective aspiration. We can and should express it in our prayer which recalls the prayer of Jesus Christ. We can and should express it in our prayer which recalls the prayer of Jesus Christ.

Fr. Ramón Aguiló, S.J.

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BRIDGING WORLDS

KNOCK... KNOCK ... KNOCK.
Somebody was at the rectory door. I was busy writing. Maybe it was a sermon. I can't remember that, but I do remember it was a Sunday afternoon in May and the year was 1992. I was serving as a priest in a refugee camp on Palawan in the Philippines. My forehead was sweating. The wind from the sea could not cool down the tropical heat. April and May are the hottest months in the Philippines. Each time a vehicle passed by in front of the church, the dried dust from the camp's unpaved streets rolled up like a cloud. All the activities in the camp slowed down to avoid the heat. Who could be knocking on my door at this hour?

But I knew that pastoral work in a refugee camp is never ending. An unwed mother asks for a few dollars to buy food for her child. A drunk cries at your window. Someone is rushed to the hospital. "Father, come! They're fighting! They are bleeding everywhere." All kinds of knock knock knocks can sound on your door.

I wiped the sweat from my forehead and went to the door. A young girl was holding a plate. She said, "Father, today is Buddha's birthday. Our Buddhist temple has something for you." Saying this, she handed me the plate. It was covered with a napkin. I opened it. It was a plate of sweet rice cake, still hot, just cooked. I told her to carry my thanks to Rev. Thich Tong Dat and Sr. Dieu Thao, the Buddhist monk and Buddhist nun who were about a half a block away on the road that connected the Van Duc (10,000 Virtues) Temple and Mary Queen of Peace, my church. The young girl smiled, turned around, and ran toward the temple, where musicians rehearsing for the festival could be heard.

Buddha' birthday fell on May 17 in 1992, the year 2536 in the Vietnamese calendar. For several days previous, our Buddhist neighbors had been working hard to decorate their temple. Most of the lights gracing its roof and gate were borrowed from our church. Those lights shifted back and forth: on Christmas Day they were on our church's gate; on Buddha's birthday they were on their temple roof.

In the refugee camp everyone was poor. We borrowed from each other. One day the big bass drum was drumming in the church. The next day it was being heard in the temple. However, poverty was not what motivated us to come together. If Rev. Dat had been a prideful man, he would not have borrowed our lights. If I had not encouraged our Catholic youth to go on camping trips with the Buddhist youth, the two groups would never have sung together in the same camp choir. For years, at Christmas, the Buddhist families always helped us put on an entertainment night for the whole camp. We were poor in material but very wealthy in spirit. We were living in happy days.

For six years I lived and worked closely with Buddhists at the refugee camp, serving the pastoral needs of over 8,000 boat people: weddings, funerals, baptisms, and CCD classes. I am now in southern California, at the Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, tending to the pastoral needs of a diverse group of people, including Koreans, Hispanics, African Americans, and Vietnamese. Sometimes I meet Catholics and non-Catholics who had been at that camp. They, too, remember those days of beautiful memories.

Not long ago I received a phone call to do the sacrament of anointing for a Vietnamese woman who had been baptized a Catholic only a few months earlier. She was the only Christian in her Buddhist family, and her children were worried; some Buddhists believe whoever does the rites first will grasp the soul. I arranged with the children to let her cousins do all the Buddhist rites first; I would do the Catholic rites after.

Her children grew up in the States. Their Vietnamese was not very good, so I spoke to them in English: "Your mom was born into a Buddhist family. But when she died she brought all of us together. She is a bridge bringing both churches together into one prayer: the prayer of love and support. I believe she is looking down from heaven and is happy to see us standing together here today. When she was on the earth she loved you with all the heart of a mother. Now that she is in heaven she understands more what love is: the love of God."

At the rites I chose the words of St. Paul:

"Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. There is no limit to love's forbearance, to trust, its hope, its power to endure."

When I look at pictures taken at the refugee camp today, I hear the drum of the Buddhist dragon dancers in front of the church and see our Catholic children jumping with joy. Of course that day was also a day of joy for Jesus.

Joseph Tuoc Nguyen, S.J.

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DIALOGUE OF LIFE IN PARISH MINISTRY

Kalikenci

You would never find this small village on any map. On our map of Central Java, it does not appear, even as a dot. This hamlet, however, has deep meaning and value for me. In my life as a priest, the villagers' faces will embellish my memory like shining pearl when my life's course turns into darkness. In that hamlet, among Muslim brothers, I am honestly and warmly accepted with brotherly affection. Even if I am younger than many of them, they consider me 'senior' each time they call me 'Father'. It is an homage I will never forget. First of all, this homage is not personally for me but for the Church!

In the beginning, it was merely through common courtesy that I started visiting and talking with the Muslims in Kalikenci. It came about from my habit of parking my offroad vehicle at this village each time I made a pastoral visit to the Catholic community at nearby Gemuh Singkalan village. As is often done by Javanese, who are expected to act with courtesy, after finishing my visit I would not take the vehicle and leave the hamlet at once but I would often chat with them aimlessly about any topic that came to mind. The place we used to chat is a simple booth built on a crossroad for nightwatchmen.

Our usual conversations about daily affairs slowly bred ideas to undertake activities which might improve our life. We talked about the lack of illumination in the villagers' homes, paving the country track which quickly turned into mud in the rainy season, land cultivation and even renovation of the villagers' mosque. The simple meetings unexpectedly became an encounter among believers of different religions, between myself as a Christian and pastor of the local parish and the Muslims of Kalikenci. We have built a close and warm friendship. I feel deep emotion when I accept their visits at the festive moment of Idul Fitri after the fasting month of Ramadhan.

We forgive each other sincerely. Every year, when the Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, the same exchange of conciliatory greeting takes place.

Harmony among believers has come about not only as a slogan or exhortation. It crystalized when we were honestly willing to help each other build houses of worship - a mosque and a church. Muslims from Kalikenci regularly gave their time to help build our parish church in Sukorejo, which needed renovation, and I was involved in building the mosque in Kalikenci. We have gone beyond refraining from disturbing each other and allowing the others to perform their worship, but now focus on helping each other even to build each other's houses of worship.

What has occurred, in my view, is full of the Lord's blessing. I take a fruitful message from this encounter, that men and women will not be alienated one from the other if there is truthful mutual trust. Encounter and communication make people's lives valued and respected. Misunderstandings and hatred are driven away, so that we no longer find them in our daily life.

It is not exaggerating to identify harmonious relations among believers as generating liberation from hatred, suffering, poverty and oppression. For this insight, I am deeply grateful to my brothers at Kalikenci, such as Kyai Bonawi, the imam of the Gemuh Singkalan mosque, the respected and elderly Kyai Toyan and Sutari, and light-handed Daryono.

Reflecting upon my experience with the villagers of Kalikenci, I am aware that even as a priest who culturally takes people's respect for granted, I must be able to go around encountering people regardless their backgrounds, to contribute anything I am able to the surroundings, even if it seems worthless. I am aware that I am a common citizen as they exactly are. This awareness empowers me to do something for the wider communities in which my parishioners live.

The contribution I can make to the surroundings in which my parishioners and I live became a burning question for me, and I feel that my contribution should be enjoyed by as many people as possible, regardless who they are. The basic needs of the villagers, simple people living in a remote and quite isolated area, drive me to do something beneficial. They lack electricity, good country roads, bridges and fresh water in their villages. These needs inspire me to help provide them with those requirements.

Ngaliyan

At Ngaliyan, some 18 km. from our parish, live a Christian community of 490 families (2,136 people) in a remote and very isolated place. To reach Ngaliyan, one has to pass through teak and coffee plantations which people consider possessed by supernatural forces, making the hamlet even more secluded. The lack of good roads have isolated the village, although the distance to the nearest town is actually not very far. No large vehicle could reach the hamlet, which resulted in the village being left out of local development schemes.

The Logung river divides Ngaliyan from the parish center in Sukorejo, but the lack of a bridge forced people to go a much longer route when the track was in bad condition. The 23-km long muddy track needed to be paved at least with stones. Since the villagers sell their crop at Sukorejo market, their isolation prevented development in terms of economy, health, education, culture and even security.

We encouraged the people to engage in community self-help, paving the track with stones and asphalt and building a bridge. Unexpectedly, the Ngaliyan villagers were interested in the idea and willingly provided their ideas, manpower and even possessions, including pieces of land and a supply of stones. In a short time we finished paving the track, though the bridge needed more time as we had to wait for government funds.

Gemuh Singkalan

The village of Gemuh Singkalan, with a small Catholic community, is located some 15 km east of Sukorejo, only 3 km from Kalikenci. It is also quite isolated and coarse grasses, owned by the villagers, cover a large area of the hamlet.

Their land had great potential for cultivation, but people neglected the land to work in the teak plantation belonging to the state-owned forest company. After many meetings, I came to the conclusion that the villagers wanted to enjoy the results of development without the condition of hard work. A sad event taught them a lesson. An old man called Mbah Kemat suffered after a snake bit him and died before a doctor could treat him. His death led the villagers to think that if they had carried the old man to a doctor in town, his life might have been spared, but there were no roads by which a car or motorcycle could pass.

The villagers finally agreed to my suggestion to pave the 4-km long, 3-meter wide path. They were willing to lose parts of their land for the paved road and agreed to collect stones and provide manpower for the paving. We worked altogether until we had constructed two small bridges, but then they stopped working before the paving was finished. They lost interest, although the funds for paving the road were still available. This was the difference between these villagers from those of Ngaliyan. I tied hard to make the villagers understand that the road was beneficial for their daily life, but they thought otherwise. They felt that since there was already a small path on which they could pass on foot, that was enough! They were used only to beg and receive without working. What I thought important was not what they thought.

I was aware of this mentality and provided incentives by offering them, thanks to benefactors, an electricity generator, a color television, and fresh water installation. I asked why did they not fulfill their own needs such as paving the path by their own efforts. Perhaps they expected the government to provide them with a road like the ones they saw in towns. I think this was the mentality that hindered them from improving their lives.

Despite my disappointment about the paving, the villagers, were willing to cut and burn the field of high grasses and to replant it with productive crops. The villages of Sekecer and Ngampel followed suit, as well as Ngaliyan. The hamlet of Gebangan paved their path and built a small bridge. Meanwhile, I contributed electricity generators to the villages of Gemuh Singkalan and Krandegan and built churches in Ngaliyan and Sukorejo district.To support cultural activities, I tried to provide Kalikenci villagers with Javanese gamelan instruments an electronic sound system.

The Kalikenci villagers hold a traditional artistic performance of kuda lumping, a trance dance imitating the movement of horses. I hoped that these cultural activities would reduce the villagers' bad habits of gambling and exchanging wives and husbands among married couples.

I work among uneducated people. They do not think far beyond the present, something I used to do, instead of thinking of the future in all its aspects. Real wisdom is not to think only of oneself and one's present needs. We have to take account of the future, of coming generations.

I do not say that simple, poor people are automatically short-sighted and closed-minded, as evidenced by the attitudes of the Ngaliyan and Kalikenci villagers. It is different with the Gemuh Singkalan and Pilangsari villagers for whom it is still difficult to think of the future and to realize that people have to work hard before enjoying success.

Misunderstanding

I have worked hard for the physical development of our parish in terms of building the parish church, chapels, the Ngaliyan sub-parish office, a boarding school, reading center and health center at Sukorejo.

Some say that I lack balance in carrying out my pastoral work. Spiritual development has been neglected, they say. I must respond to this misunderstanding.

I do not believe that I have neglected spiritual service to the people. As a parish priest, living among various believers as God's people in wider communities, I see that the secular dimension of everyday life cannot be ignored.

In the real world in which we live, people's basic needs, such as fresh water, means of communication, and illumination, are not yet met, and so I try to help others overcome backwardness and alienation. This work is connected with people's needs for friendship and deeper relationships which may not be separated from the faith and spiritual perception among the religious communities.

Some communities are enthusiastic in their responses, such as the Muslims of Kalikenci and the Catholics in Ngaliyan. Their involvement in doing good things and working for community development are the fruits of their faith which God approves and blesses.

For me, the meaning of preaching is my personal attitude which hopefully becomes a good example for others. Pastoral service succeeds when we can involve people in a truthful way of living in faith.

It is not enough to exhort people not to steal teakwood, stop gambling, and other wrongs, if at the same time I do not show alternative solutions to their real problems. It would be nonsense simply to tell people "It is a shame for you villagers to neglect your lands." It is better to tell them that and then show how to reforest the denuded lands. It is useless advice to say "you should carry the sick to the hospital and not to the shamans" when in fact there is no road to reach the doctors in town.

Pastoral works in villages, among people living in the woods, require more than just praying, preaching and baptizing. Real life is the first vocational must for a priest living amid pluralist, heterogenous communities.

I quote again Fr. Mangunwijaya in his book Religion, Democracy and Justice:

"If we get locked into merely formal religious dimensions, in formalistic prescriptions and rigid, abstract doctrines, it is certain that the new cosmological views of science and technology will constitute difficult obstacles to finding ways to God. We will remain backward because we are attached to formalistic and ritualistic dimensions of religion.

Our service to people and worship of God should arise from within the Spirit, in a truthful recognition of genuine self-identity and self-image which goes deeper than the peal of standard religious prescriptions and doctrines.

Development costs are indeed very dear, but the huge cost is even harder to bear if there appears derision, negative prejudices, indifference and inaction."

M. Windyatmaka, S.J.

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FROM ENCOUNTER TO DIALOGUE

The diocese of N'Djamena is 91% Muslim. As such, it is the site of unavoidable encounter between Christians and Muslims. There is no way that Christians, once they leave their churches,even think of living their daily affairs of neighborhood, work, or business without everywhere encountering the omnipresent Muslim.

Since Vatican II, the Church invites us, clearly and persistently, to enter into dialogue with Muslims. But for most Christians, "dialogue" is a booby trap. In a national context which they view as the political and economic domination of the "North" over the "South," how can they calmly live a dialogue when everything seems to be moving, for the great majority of people, in the direction of Islamic hegemony? How, in the international context of Islamic revival, can one persuade Christians that they can find well-disposed Muslims who can be true partners in dialogue?

Interreligious dialogue is highly complex for yet another reason. It happens that religious otherness in Chad coincides - except in Guera - with ethnic otherness and serves to reinforce it. The ethnic groups of the North are now turning towards Islam, and those of the South towards Christianity. The danger is always present of interpreting human, ethnic, and regional antagonisms in religious terms. There is also the constant danger of using religious adherence to serve human, economic, temporal, and profane goals.

For this reason, in their 1994 Christmas message, the bishops of Chad affirmed: "The question is not one of knowing whether or not we ought to live and work with our brothers of other religions; the only question is of knowing how to do it." The answer given by the church of N'Djamena has taken the form of "encounter". The word corresponds better to the reality of our situation. In its modesty and realism it expresses well that the "dialogue of life" is at the heart of interreligious dialogue. Moreover, in the context of the difficulties and hesitations mentioned above, theencounter between Christians and Muslims is perhaps the most notable characteristic of our diocese. In its educational institutions, social works, dispensaries, cultural centers and secondary and university student chaplaincies, the Church not only welcomes Muslims as beneficiaries of services offered but also, when the occasion arises, as co-workers. The Church does not hesitate to involve them in planning and carrying out these projects.

On this terrain of humble and patient daily encounter, there blooms, from time to time, the exceptional flower of a deeper dialogue. Such occurred in four conference debates, where the very sensitive question of secularism, which so greatly divides Christians and Muslims, was discussed with frankness and respect. It is so true what Pope John Paul II said in Redemptor Hominis, "the human person is the first path that the Church must follow in the accomplishment of her mission."

Henri Coudray, S.J.

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THE AL-MOUNA CULTURAL CENTER

Al-Mouna is an Arabic word that means "desires," "aspirations," "hopes." The Al-Mouna Cultural Center founded by the diocese of N'Djamena is open to all: Christians, Muslims, animists; French and Arabic speakers; people from both North and South and from every ethnic group. It did not come about by chance but is the end result of a long experience of searching and meeting others with all their differences. This work has been confided to the Lebanese Sisters of the Sacred Hearts. By some, the Al-Mouna Center is considered a threat to Islam and by others it is claimed to be working to promote Muslims. Both opinions would seem to misunderstand the Center's calling. In fact, the mission of the Center is to be a place of welcome, encounter, dialogue, and human promotion for every individual and all cultures.

To this end, the Al-Mouna Center places at the disposition of its visitors a lending and reference library of 15,000 works. It offers language courses in French, Arabic, and English to educated adults. It maintains recreation rooms where children and adults can pass the time agreeably. The Center libraries accommodate between 150-200 subscribers daily. For university students, the Center offers a great variety of documents in French and Arabic for study and research. In the language courses, attended annually by 200 students, the students receive certificates testifying that they have followed intensive courses in one of the three languages. The recreation rooms also play an important role in the Center. Ping-pong, educational games, Scrabble, chess etc. are available, not to mention the cine-club and the art studio where young local artists annually exhibit their works.

The main goal of these diverse activities is not only to provide a place of work and learning or acquiring linguistic skills, but is a response to the real mission of he Al-Mouna Center: to be a place of meeting, welcome and dialogue. The very fact of finding oneself side-by-side at the same tables, taking part in the same activities, is a first step towardsovercoming barriers between ethnic groups, regions and religions. The common bonds of citizenship become stronger than the differences. The daily intermingling helps people to come to know each other and overcome misunderstanding and ignorance.

To reflect upon the realization of all these activities, the "Committee of Reflection on the Al-Mouna Center" (CORECA) has been created. The members of the committee come from leaders belonging to diverse ethnic and religious groups. It is to promote culture and dialogue through encounter that we allow ourselves to give free rein to our ambitions to be of service to the people of Chad.

Sister Karaki
Sister of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

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MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN STUDENTS IN N'DJAMENA FROM LIVING TOGETHER TO DIALOGUE

At the beginning of the 1988 school year, when we were preparing to start up again the Young Christian Student (YCS) movement, one of the Muslims saw on my desk an announcement with the initials of the movement. He asked what the initials stood for, and I explained it. He asked if he could take part. I said that the Christian nature of the movement might bother him. He decided not to sign up, but I encouraged him to gather a group of his Muslim friends who felt like him to form their own organization similar to that of YCS, and that I would be willing to support it. One of these friends, who had been accustomed to train

children for neighborhood sporting competitions, took it upon himself to choose several of the more dynamic youths to bring them together throughout the academic year. From thiswas born a movement that the young people involved called "The Society of Bees," whose motto "Fraternity, Solidarity, Work" brought together the goals of YCS. Within the Chaplaincy of High Schools and Colleges, priority is given to every form of contact between Christians and Muslims. In this environment, all feel free to come and go, and the leaders of various organizations greet each other, exchange views, and sometimes work together. Among them, the young people of the Society of Bees are particularly friendly. They benefit from the same material and financial assistance as the YCS and offer an enduring concrete witness to a fraternal sharing of life that includes respect for the religion of each. Christians take part in their training camp and fix their time of prayer according to that of their Muslim brothers (mornings at dawn, evening at sunset). The two groups pray at the same time, each in their own way, a short distance from one another so as not to disturb the others. Beyond this first step towards fraternal living together and mutual respect, they have now embarked upon the beginnings of dialogue and mutual understanding, in which one of the concrete manifestations is the starting up of a group of sharing and dialogue called the "Islamo-Christian Association for Living Together and Dialogue among Youths."

After some hesitation on the part of both sides, one sees dialogue beginning to be organized between young Muslims and Christians so that it can go deeper and spread farther. The Catholic Chaplaincy of Schools and Colleges of N'Djamena, situated on the edge of the Muslim neighborhoods, has become more and more a place open to all, very "catholic" in the sense of universal, where Christians and Muslims can weave together the bonds of new fellowship in respect for differences and in common submission to the One God.

François de Gastines, S.J.

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TRADITION AND MODERNITY

The Theological Session for the Near East Province was held in Mariout, Egypt on 27-29 August 1998. The topic for discussion was "Tradition and Modernity: Basic Orientations for a Theology Grounded in the Near East".

In the Near East Province, different formulas have been tried to stimulate reflection and exchange among Jesuits on how living an Islamic milieu affects one's theological perspective. The most recent formula is a commission for theology with representatives from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. The commission, apart from periodic meetings, prepares broad-based sessions with the participation of many members of the Province. In 1995, a session on "Theologies of Religion" was held, followed in 1996 by a session on "Theology and Culture."

"Modernity and Tradition" is a classic theme. Since the 1950s numerous studies have attempted to calculate how traditional societies can make the transition to modernity. Now, nearly a half century later, the same theme of tradition and modernity is with us but it has acquired a different shape. The crisis of modernity is not in developing countries but in the West. The relation between tradition and modernity has been overturned. The question in the West is how to re-establish a healthy relation with tradition in this post-modern area.

Fr. Dumortier, rector of Centre Sevres in Paris, set out the principal elements in the crisis of Western modernity. Reason itself is called into question because of its inability to ground values. Evil is a blind spot; considered an accident of history, it is covered over. The complete rupture with tradition and the breakup of the philosophical tradition leave contemporaries in a position in which there is nothing to help us understand the radically new, and we are not sure we have anything of substance to pass on to future generations. The result is a state of fear and doubt in which we are nostalgic for that simple world of tradition which made sense. In our cities, technological efficiency has created a disjointed society where there is no place for the "useless person."

An "Eastern" frame was given to the problem by Fr. Aziz Hallaq, who presented certain traits characteristic of Eastern Christianity today. The Churches, long cut off from their tradition, have lacked the dynamism necessary to assert their presence effectively in today's society. They see modernity as a threat and turn defensively to tradition. But the reading of tradition is generally a-historical and neglects the recent past, the present and the future. For Hallaq, Islam lacks the historical dimension in its reflections, but Christianity is essentially historical. Thus, an a-historical reading of tradition is an aberration.

The conference of Fr. Joseph Buhagyar confirmed the a-historical dimension by a critical presentation of some recent editions of Eastern Patrology. A conference on ethics as a locus for modernity was given by Fr. Jean Ducruet, who emphasized the sound formation of personal conscience as a vital necessity. There is always reference to tradition, but solutions for new moral problems cannot await a dictate of Church authorities. Fr. Th. Sicking gave a schema of Church organization in Lebanon, and Fr. Jean Aucagne an overview of the Latin Church in the Near East. Fr. Jacques Masson's intervention concerned the problem as seen in the Coptic Church. An analysis of present-day Islam was presented by Fr. Christian van Nispen. In his view, in traditional Islam, in the Islamist current (political Islam) and among Islamic intellectuals there is development, not a simple return to tradition as is sometimes claimed in the strereotypes of Islam.

The essential work of such meetings is done in workshops. Three workshops described the present situation in the sectors of Near East politics and culture, education, and spirituality/psychology. Politically and culturally, there is an ongoing concern with modernizing everything from the tax system to the preaching in the mosque.

The question is what is actually meant by modernity. The activity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and specifically of Caritas in Egypt, forms a conscious, active citizen, which is a must for a modern society. Meanwhile, ideology has been declared bankrupt and the misuse of religion has left an opening for the entrance of political Islam. Modern society requires a critical attitude to religion.

In the domain of culture there is creativity and a participation often aided by traditional practices. A fear was expressed that the middle class - the source of creativity - is being numbed by consumerism and a mentality of change for the sake of change. Education is by definition traditional but there is need of a better selection and presentation of the deposit of knowledge to be handed on and a concern with forming independent judgement.

A question raised in general discussion but not pursued was the cause behind the emigration of Christians. Is it lack of modernity in the Near Eastern society and the return to Islamic religious identity that motivates the move?

Fr. Jack Donohue, S.J.

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JEWISH-CHRISTIAN CONGRESS IN BRAZIL

Latin American Congress to Promote Jewish-Catholic Dialogue

On 16-18 September 1997, representatives of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL), and the Latin-American Jewish Congress (CJL) came together in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to revitalize and promote Catholic-Jewish dialogue. In a friendly atmosphere, the Jewish and Catholic representatives discussed the history, present situation and future prospects for relations between the two communities, stressing the potential for dialogue as this century draws to a close.

At the conclusion of the congress, the participating organizations issued "the Belo Horizonte Declaration." The declaration strongly condemned anti-Semitism as a sin against God and against humankind, repudiated terrorism, exhorted the communities to extend dialogue efforts to a wider public, and rejected all forms of syncretism and proselytism. The organizations agreed to work together on specific projects in areas of education, joint social action, particularly on matters pertaining to human rights, and interaction between the two communities throughout the region.

Jesuit participation in the congress included Fr. Jesús Hortal, rector of the Catholic Pontifical University in Rio de Janeiro, and Fr. Johan Konings, a member of the Christian-Jewish Fraternity in Belo Horizonte. The Fraternity promotes meetings of those interested in Jewish-Christian dialogue and an annual 'ecumenical' celebration of Passover.

A copy of the final declaration, in Portuguese, can be obtained by writing our Secretariat. (tfm)

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YOUNG JESUITS IN ISLAMIC
STUDIES MEET IN ISTANBUL

In September 1998, 15 Jesuits in various stages of Islamic studies came together at the Dominican Convent in Istanbul. They exchanged information concerning their work, their past and present involvement with Muslims, and their spiritual and academic goals.

Jesuits in Istanbul

Why hold a meeting in Istanbul, a city with no Jesuits? Aside from the importance of Istanbul as a political, intellectual, and artistic center of the Islamic world for over 600 years, the city also plays a key role in the history of Jesuit presence in the Islamic world. Perhaps inspired by the First Formula that the members of the new Society should be ready to go "even among the Turks," the first Jesuit house was established in the Ottoman capital in 1583. From there came the motivation for the Jesuit works in Aleppo, Beirut, Cairo and, later, the Armenian missions in Anatolia. Until the house was closed in 1983, Jesuits were a constant presence in the city, with the college, established in 1609, and missions on the Aegean islands. Even during the Suppression, which was not promulgated in the Ottoman state, Chiot Jesuits were placed under the Provincial in Russia and continued their work in the islands.

Istanbul was also the site of pioneering ecumenical activity among Jesuits. The Istanbul Jesuits maintained good relations with Orthodox monks and laity that endured despite the continual conflicts between the Churches of the East and the West. Many monks of Mount Athos studied at the College and often resided at the Jesuit house on their visits to Istanbul. More than once the Jesuits were invited to open a house on the Holy Mountain. The invitations never bore fruit, sometimes because of the lack of Jesuit personnel, at other times because the project was deemed inconvenient by authorities in Rome.

This was not the first meeting of Jesuit Islamicists. In 1980, Fr. Pedro Arrupe brought together, in Rome, Jesuits from around the world involved in what is often called "the Islamic apostolate." At that meeting, the need was often expressed for for Jesuits in this field of apostolate to meet and share experiences and difficulties, to let each other know what is going on in their particular regions, and to encourage one another in this aspect of our Jesuit mission. Such fraternal interchange is important for all Jesuits, but especially so in the Islamic apostolate, where there is usually not more than one Islamic "expert" in any given country. Since that first consultation, Jesuits in various aspects of Islamic apostolate have come together every several years.

A unique feature of the Istanbul meeting was that it focused on the experiences of "young" Jesuits. The median age was 35, and only three were over 40 years of age. They came from 11 countries (Australia, Belgium, Chad, England, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Spain), representing six Assistancies of the Society.

The "missioning" of these young Jesuits, together with several others who were not able to take part in the Istanbul meeting, to work in Islamic studies indicates the impact of the GC34 document, "Our Mission and Interreligious Dialogue." In the years previous to the last General Congregation, there were not many engaged in pursuing this field of apostolate. In affirming interreligious dialogue as an integral part of the Society's mission, the Congregation has encouraged provincials and province consultors to prepare men for this task.

The Dominicans, who have recently set up a new Documentation and Dialogue Center in Istanbul, hosted the group. The Italian priests have recently been joined by three Dominican sisters from Iraq. Their warm and cheerful welcome created a friendly environment for the encounter. A prominent goals of the meeting was to create a sense of 'corporate mission,' a consciousness of being friends in the Lord who want to work together to accomplish great things for God in the encounter between Christians and Muslims.

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NO MOSQUE YET

One of my fondest memories of a few years working in the parish in rural Hurungwe is of friendship with the Malawian tailor across the road from our little mission, who called himself Yussuf Ali. There are very few Zimbabwean Muslims, but we were only 5 km from an area of large commercial farms where many of the labourers came from Malawi, and a large proportion of them were Muslim. Yussuf, though not a very educated man, was their religious leader.

The big event that drew all the churches together annually was common prayer for rain in October, as the dry season drew to an end and farmers began to become anxious about what sort of a growing season lay ahead of them. Yussuf always joined in. He usually recited a prayer in Arabic and explained it.

Since he was the local tailor, I often went to him with clothing to repair. We would talk about all sorts of topics of common interest, as one does in such situations. As the leader of a community of poor immigrants, he was concerned for their welfare. He was extraordinarily grateful when volunteer teacher who stayed at our mission helped him get a grant from the Spanish embassy for a pet project, a tailoring cooperative. About that time, he started refusing to accept payment for repairing my shirts and trousers. But he had no qualms about asking if I could help him find money to build a mosque. When he showed me a funding request to expand his tailoring cooperative into a school of dressmaking, which he called the 'Jihad Islamic Centre', my colleague at the mission expressed some doubts, but Yussuf insisted that jihad is the war against evil, "and we are all engaged in that."

Once I lent him a book of translated passages from the Hadith, the oral traditions of the sayings of the prophet Mohammed, compiled by my cousin, who had taught in universities in several Islamic countries. His English was not good, but when he returned it, he was beaming and said; "Look, all we share is there; Noah and Abraham and Jesus."

I used sometimes to joke to others that if we could encourage the Iranian embassy to give him money for his mosque, then all the rice Christians would go over to Islam and stop bothering us but Yussuf was such a good man that I would not wish them on him. My reaction was rather different when he came to me one day to tell me that he had been to a meeting in the provincial town of Chinhoyi, about 130 km away, with a delegation from, I think, Iran. "They offered to pay for a mosque," he said, "but the way they insulted other believers made me feel that they are not the kind of people I want to deal with." He has not got his mosque yet.

Brian MacGarry, S.J.

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TRIBAL SOCIETIES*
AND CULTURAL DIALOGUE

Mons. Menamparampil is Archbishop of Guwahati, in Assam state in northeast India. This extract is taken from his paper "How Do Cultures Interact with Our Mission of Evangelization?" The complete talk, in English, can be obtained by writing our Secretariat. Ed.

*[In some parts of the world, tribal is an acceptable term, a statement of pride, but elsewhere is considered pejorative and replaced by terms such as traditional or indigenous societies. Here we follow the original text.]

Social values in tribal societies

1. Equality

Tribal societies differ greatly among themselves, some following absolute democracy and others verging on the monarchic. But there is no doubt that democratic values dominate tribal life as a whole. In community discussion, everyone has the right to express their opinion and everyone's opinion is important. There is general recognition of the dignity of a person, whether rich or poor, specially gifted or physically handicapped. Women are considered equal and are respected. Children are dealt with like young adults to be persuaded and guided, rather than scolded and disciplines.

No one is treated as a non-entity, as is often done in sophisticated societies, or marginalised or ignored. A tribe is truly a larger family. In a well-organized tribe, a person receives all the attention and care one receives in a family. In such an atmosphere, one acquires a sense of self-respect, and even an illiterate farmer bears himself with dignity. He is not afraid to approach anyone and speaks up without embarrassment. He moves among people of every category with great ease and familiarity.

In the past, tribal societies did not allow the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few. If someone grew rich, he sought to win special recognition by celebrating certain traditional feasts at great cost (e.g., feeding the whole village), which won him additional respect but made him as poor as the others. This generally prevented the development of dominant and depressed classes in tribal society, and consequently of superiority and inferiority complexes. In modern times, however, this situation has been rapidly changing.

2. Honesty

Honesty is an absolute value in tribal society. Traditionally, houses remained unlocked and doors unbarred with no fear of theft. The granaries that often used to be located outside the village for fear of fire would be untouched.

The property of another was sacred. If a person cut bamboo and kept it on the roadside to be taken away later, it would remain where it was left until the one who cut it came to carry it away.

This sense of honesty of tribal people cost them dearly when they came into contact with outside society. They could never see why anyone needed to cheat anyone else. Coming down from the hills to the market in the plains, they would readily pay the price that was quoted to them and then discover that they had been cheated or that their money or their belongings were stolen. Such a situation would lead to quarrels and win them a bad name for being wild and quarrelsome.

The accusation of being dishonest was the worst possible insult you could offer a tribal person. Dishonesty, more than anything else, exposed a person as anti-social and made him unfit for heaven. Probably this vice was the greatest threat to the security of a tribal community, and hence, the near intolerant attitude of a tribal community to a dishonest person and anyone who attempted to protect him.

Dishonesty did not mean only telling lies or stealing. It also meant not keeping promises. When a missionary in his over-enthusiasm makes a generous promise of opening a school, which he knows he cannot fulfil, he is taking a serious risk of losing his image as an honest person. The Gospel style of "yes, yes" and "no, no" (Mt 5:37) is the right style in tribal society.

3. The dignity of labour

The main concern of the tribal community is 'work,' usually work in the fields. Unlike caste-ridden societies, there is no class set aside for work. Every person is a worker, and no work is beneath his/her dignity. No one is afraid to soil one's hands. Working together is a pleasure.

The entire tribal life is built around the rhythm of seasonal work. There is no idle man or woman in the village during the sowing and reaping seasons. Among certain tribes, even university students and political leaders will readily go to help in the fields if they happen to be in the village in the working season.

Other values

There are many other precious values among tribal people besides those listed above, for example, the love of the parents for their children. The responsibility of the parents is to love their children and not so much to rebuke and punish them. Tribal people deal with their children as young adults. They reason with them and coax them and never force them against their will. In the same way, young people have high regard for the wisdom of the elders.

Among other tribal values may be mentioned a great capacity for physical endurance, a cheerful acceptance of unavoidable events in life, e.g., accident, death of a dear one, nearness to nature. But for al these good qualities, a rapid process of detribalization is fast eroding them in modern times and threatens the very survival of the tribal soul. It is a challenge to the missionary to work in a manner keeping with the original genius of the tribal people and his duty to preserve and strengthen those values of a permanently valid nature.

Common mistakes in the area of culture

Cultural-related mistakes can be of different types. The most common one is to look at others through your own cultural glasses and make positive or negative judgements, and be guided solely by your own cultural perceptions. How many missionaries have I seen, zealous and sacrificing in every sense, who are totally impervious to cultural signals! They are victims of ethno-centrism, blind to the limitations that their own cultural perceptions impose on them. How many religious have I seen, newly come into frontline activities from seclusion and institutional services, who, incapable of cultural insertion, are becoming martyrs unto themselves and a burden on the apostolic team, with every limited apostolic fruitfulness! Plunging into struggle for justice in such a situation is extremely perilous. May be we are already paying for such imprudences in different places.

Another mistake is to take on the ways of thinking of the dominant group in a place with whom you are familiar, and evaluate everyone else according to the norms they provide. And a third form of mistake is to carry with you the cultural habits of the community you were working with earlier and annoy everyone else with these cultural trappings.

Speaking of the dominant group, culture-related mistakes can be made not only in the context of a parish or an institution. The temptation to impose the views and tastes and spiritualities of the dominant group is more common in novitiates and houses of formation. For example, in the name of 'Indianisation' how many alien things have been imposed on minority groups, e.g. tribals and dalits, whose psyches resent many things having Brahmical associations. Lord Acton once said that oppression by a majority was worse than by a minority, since in the former case there was 'no appeal, no redemption, no refuge but treason'.

Community living becomes more strenuous (inter-regionally, inter-culturally) when one form of being 'Indian' is considered absolute by a majority. Details of etiquette which are thought by many as practical ways of inculturating seem unpleasant and disgusting to others. Do we have sensitivity to the unexpressed feelings of minority groups and even of 'micro-minorities' (just one or two members of ethnic groups different from the majority)? What strains they have to go through to be true to their calling! How many cynical remarks, jokes, and humiliations they have to stand to preserve, with no one to share with and no one who can understand the logic of their inner world! These unexpressed feelings will express themselves in various ways in due time: sudden outburst, protest in other areas of life which may seem to have nothing to do with the cultural issue, sudden departures, sometimes together.

It is interesting to note how religious perceptions and apostolic priorities change when the ethnic composition of the leadership and/or membership changes in religious houses and provinces. What used to be a great concern ceases to be. What was thought a marginal issue moves to the centre. Grievances change. New theological perceptions take over. Studies have revealed such a change taking place among religious groups in the U.S. as the membership is shifting in favour of Blacks, Hispanics and Asian "Ethnically distinct groups (meaning, these new groups) feel their culture to be not unwelcome, but generally unrecognised...the research suggest that mainstream orders' prevalent descendent with pious practices, authority and discipline is not their concern. Their faith structure, ecclesiology, female and male relationships, understanding of the vows, and relationship to the church present a very different dynamic as a function of a different culture".

Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, sdb

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Secretariat for Interreligious Dialogue; Jesuit Curia, C.P. 6139, 00195 Roma Prata, Italy;
tel. (39-6) 689.77.568; fax: 687.5101; email: interrel@sjcuria.org