Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has said religions should be prepared to ask difficult questions and he asserts it is unrealistic to live as if there was only one global faith - writes Fredrick Nzwilli.
"Partners in the dialogue must be open to talk about those issues not often put on the table: religious liberty, freedom of conscience, reciprocity, conversion, religious extremism," said Tauran on 16 April 2008 in Nairobi, where he was attending a four-day interreligious meeting.
The cardinal, who was chairing the meeting, said that religion should be used as a tool for peace and not war, and he also said that the Roman Catholic Church recognised partners in the dialogue as equals, but this did not mean all religions were more or less equal.
"As might be expected not every person is enthused about interreligious dialogue. There are those who think, if [it is] not a betrayal of the mission of Christ, it is a new method of winning members to Christianity. There are those who hold that the drive of the Church for interreligious relation is an effort to control the spread of other religions. It is not any of those," said Tauran.
The cardinal said dialogue is a bridge-building exercise, dealing with the promotion of harmony and tolerance among religions, going beyond "the niceties of polite conversation which encourages people to stay where they are, and which avoids talking about the grey areas of disagreement" Tauran said, "It is a journey in the search of truth."
Cardinal John Njue of Kenya, in a welcome address said dialogue between faiths was inevitable.
"We work in the same environment and many times criss-cross in the course of our daily work," said Njue, referring to the role of Kenyan religious leaders during the country's recent political crisis.
The meeting at the Resurrection Gardens in Karen near Nairobi from 16-20 April has brought together Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and people from Ba'hai and African Traditional faiths.
At the opening, Venerable Vanraj Sarvaija, national leader of the Hindu Council of Kenya, said, "Inter-religious dialogue is a key to peace in the world ... If all religions work with the same zeal to uplift mankind to a level where lives of people are governed by better moral and ethical standards … the world would be a better place."
Similar meetings to the one in Kenya have been held every five years. The last such meeting was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 2003.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]