Message of Vatican Colloquium on Traditional Religions

“Greater Effort in Promoting Interreligious Dialogue”

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2005 ( Here is the final message of the colloquium on “The Resources for Peace in Traditional Religions,” organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and held Jan. 12-15.

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Peace is a constant quest of all men and women of good will. Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Church, in full awareness of the need for peace in a divided world, encourages dialogue in view of better understanding and harmonious relations between believers of different religions. Between January 12th-15th, 2005, in Rome, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue organized a colloquium on “The Resources for Peace in Traditional Religions.”

In this colloquium, 24 Catholic experts from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania came together to reflect on what traditional religions can contribute to peace-making in the world. This encounter as well as the previous colloquium on “Spiritual Resources of the Religions on Peace” organized by the same office between 16th-8th January 2003 in Rome, were a follow-up to the Interreligious Assembly held in the Vatican on 25th-28th October 1999; the Day of Prayer for Peace, which took place in Assisi, 24th January 2002; and the Forum for Peace which preceded it.

The participants underlined the specific characteristics of traditional religions. They noted the importance of the following elements: oral traditions, rituals, myths and proverbs, as well as a community-centered vision of life, the sacredness of nature, the unified view of reality, the emphasis on life and relationships, all of which require special attention.

The participants generally agreed that according to traditional religions, peace is more than absence of war or open conflict. Positively, peace is viewed in terms of harmony with all facets of reality, the seen and the unseen, the divine and the human, the cosmic and the historical. Peace also presupposes balance and respect for diversity. Peace in traditional religions is fostered by a communitarian as opposed to an individualistic way of life, [a] relationship with the land and sea which inculcates a sense of responsibility and stewardship with respect to nature in general. Traditional societies emphasize social obligations. Other positive elements towards peace are the readiness for reconciliation in spite of clear perception of the inevitability of conflict; the pivotal role of women as agents of peace; the importance of the family, the elders and the community; and the necessity of restorative justice, as well as forgiveness.

While recognizing the strength of traditional religions, the participants also shared reflections on the difficulties of these religions to uphold their values in the context of globalization.

In view of the above, the colloquium encourages greater effort in promoting interreligious dialogue between Christianity and traditional religions, especially in the local churches where these religions still exist and are influential. The participants insisted on the need for the development of intra-religious dialogue among members of the Church coming from traditional religious backgrounds. Through these two types of dialogue the participants believe that both Christians and the followers of traditional religions will come to a better understanding of the richness of traditional religions, but also of their possible limitations. A well-grounded understanding of these traditions will contribute to the process of inculturation. The Church recognizes that the values in traditional religions can be wealthy resources for promoting peace in the world. It is the view of this colloquium that if we took these resources more seriously, there would be more possibility of achieving genuine peace.

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