JALANDHAR, India, MARCH 20, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Amid escalating violence and tensions in India, the Catholic Church has become the spokesman for a return to dialogue, through an appeal of the bishops gathered in Jalandhar, Punjab, for their General Assembly.
Here, Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios, president of the Indian episcopal conference, explains the challenges the Church now faces.
Q: The assembly of the Indian bishops debated the topic “A Dialoguing Church,” an especially strong message at a time of serious acts of fundamentalist violence, which also strike Christians.
Archbishop Mar Baselios: The life of our Christian communities in India has changed profoundly in recent times. We have had to face a new political and social situation. Given these difficulties, the Church must act as bearer of hope, being responsible as well for social questions.
Q: The bishops´ assembly has committed itself to an informal dialogue with those Hindu groups that had been accused of fueling the campaign of hatred against Christians. However, some have criticized this step.
Archbishop Mar Baselios: There are no differences or divisions on this point, which sees us all working together. No one has the right to say that the Church must give up its ends.
The problem is not whether or not someone wants to dialogue with these groups. The real question is: Does God want the Church to undertake this task or not? Because what is at stake is the choice to take seriously the vocation and mission of the Church and to try to realize it.
Q: Those opposed to dialogue wonder what kind of dialogue could be undertaken with those who have such a closed mentality.
Archbishop Mar Baselios: It is a logic I do not accept. I wish to respond that they do not know the real meaning of dialogue, because from this point of view, the object of dialogue is to change others.
I cannot say: I will talk only to those I like or who think the way I do. What would be the purpose of this? Dialogue, at least in the first instance, is not even the way to reach an agreement or resolve a problem. Dialogue means to understand one another and to leave one´s own prejudices behind.
Q: You mean there is no dialogue when prejudices remain?
Archbishop Mar Baselios: It is the first condition. We cannot allow ourselves to be led by the idea that anything that comes from the other is evil. To dialogue with Hindu groups means to try to understand their real position. And, at the same time, to make them understand who we are, and what our vision of reality is. Precisely because of this we insist on the need to be absolutely clear.
Q: How can the Christian community educate for dialogue?
Archbishop Mar Baselios: I think that we Christians must also grow in this respect. It is a question of mentality. Perhaps some of us have found Christianity in a partial way. We have still not understood all together what it means to accept the logic of the redemption.
I am well aware that some of us have had a bad experience with those with whom we are called upon to dialogue. But even in a situation of adversity, we cannot go backward; it would be against the spirit of the Gospel. Precisely in these difficult times we are called to witness the authenticity of our positions.
Q: Is it a challenge for the Indian Church?
Archbishop Mar Baselios: I don´t know if it will be a difficult task. It is certainly a decisive step for our Church today.