Holy See at UN Urges Dialogue
The Other is a Good for Me
On October 13, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN sponsored a side event entitled “The Other is a Good for Me: The role of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in addressing violence, conflict and building lasting peace in the world today.” The title is based on a subtitle taken from the book Disarming Beauty by Fr. Julián Carrón, President of Communion and Liberation, which co-sponsored the event. The event – as well as the book – aimed to address the root causes of prevalent social issues, as well as to promote dialogue and the culture of encounter necessary to resolve them.
Archbishop Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said interpersonal dialogue is crucial to building lasting peace, whether on an interpersonal level or an international level, and must be rooted in a sincere willingness to understand the other.
He also noted that while different parties can have differing views, it is important that they approach one other with respect and acknowledge the elements of shared goodness and common ground.
“In various places today, unfortunately, people can focus so much on what divides instead of what unites,” Archbishop Auza said. “It has been difficult to accept differences whether they are religious, political, or cultural.”
Recognizing the inherent goodness in each person can shift the paradigm from conflict to mutual understanding, he said.
“The other is not a threat. The other is not a competitor in an unending battle of survival of the fittest. The other is not an evil to be marginalized or eliminated,” Archbishop Auza said. “The other is an objective and subjective good.”
He noted a principle from Pope Francis about interreligious and intercultural dialogue, the idea of “caminar juntos,” Spanish for “journeying together,” which suggests that when people of different cultures and backgrounds begin to walk together, they realize their common humanity and deepen their worldview and sense of mutual respect. This mutual respect, Archbishop Auza implied, is necessary for building lasting peace among persons and nations alike.
Professor Paolo Carozza, Director of the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame, moderated the event, and said a large paradox of the modern age is that while people live in unprecedented global interconnectedness, they also face increasing division and conflict in identity, culture, religion and politics.
He noted that in the halls of the UN, States regularly call for greater dialogue to solve the major crises in the world, but have failed to mitigate and end conflicts.
“This call to greater dialogue is countered by threats of increased force and even nuclear assault,” he said, noting Fr. Carrón’s book works to addresses the causes of the crises, which he said are rooted in a lack of “sense of belonging, the fraying of a culture of common values, the disappearance of our capacity to understand and reason together about the ends and meaning of our lives and our communities.”
Fr. Carrón said that beauty is a common thread that unites all of humanity, and can unite people regardless of differing cultural backgrounds or faith, implying people, communities, governments, and international platforms should encourage dialogue based on shared experience and common ground. The shared encounter of beauty has a “disarming” effect.
“As Pope Francis said, dialogue begins with encounter. Incentivize meaningful encounters and it will build lasting peace,” Fr. Carrón said.
Professor Amitai Etzioni, Director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at The George Washington University, said people must be aware not only of their individual rights, but also their responsibility to their community, and said education plays an important role in teaching the art of dialogue and mutual respect.
“Life is a struggle between our flawed humanity and our capacity to a higher level of fulfillment. We need character education,” he said, noting the most important traits communities must instill in children are delayed gratification and empathy.
Ambassador Teodoro Lopez Locsin, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines to the UN, suggested that religion has a place at the peacebuilding table, noting authentic faith ought to be rooted in a place of humility, in which people realize that they alone cannot answer all of life’s most fundamental questions.
“When he has found a religious answer, he should regard his fellow man of the same or another faith or none at all — as one like himself,” he said: “A person filled with a fearful wonder whom he must treat as he would himself.”
Ambassador Ina Hagniningtyas Krisnamurthi, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Indonesian Mission to the UN, said that while religion is sometimes misused to exacerbate intolerance and conflict, interfaith and intercultural dialogue can help build the bridges necessary to view diversity as a good, which she said is a pillar of her country, in which 750 different dialects are spoken, and several world religions are practiced.
Indonesia’s founding fathers recognized there is a universal truth many of the world’s faiths are grounded in, she said, which is why the country embraced the motto “unity in diversity,” and celebrates multiple national holidays based in various faiths.
The Full Text of Archbishop Auza’ Remarks:
Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists, Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I heartily welcome you to this event on the role of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in peacemaking and peacebuilding in the world today, which the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See is happy to be sponsoring together with the Catholic Movement Communion and Liberation, represented here by its President, Fr. Julián Carrón.
Today’s event is entitled “The Other is a Good for Me,” which is based on a subtitle taken from the first Chapter of Fr. Carrón’s recent book Disarming Beauty. This subtitle points to, I think, three basic insights for interreligious and intercultural dialogue to be meaningful and effective in helping to lead a multicultural and religiously pluralistic world to peace.
The first insight is that interpersonal dialogue is the foundation of intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Dialogue is not just an exchange of words or ideas or position papers. It’s an exchange of persons who speak and think, and often differently. Over the course of the last half-century, even though there has been a lot of talk about the importance of dialogue between persons, faiths and cultures, in many places it has scarcely risen above the level of monologue. Genuine dialogue presupposes that each side wishes to know each other and desires to increase and deepen its knowledge of each other.
The second inference is that for interpersonal dialogue to be sincere, it must acknowledge with respect each interlocutor’s beliefs and the culture that flows from those beliefs. True dialogue happens in appreciation for each other’s intimate convictions. Even if there are serious differences in terms of what people believe or value, there is a need to acknowledge the good that attracts the other to value it and order his or her conduct and life according to those values. In various places today people can focus so much on what divides that they end up rejecting other persons as a whole when they cannot accept one of their religious tenets or cultural values. Even believers can sometimes fail to appreciate the extraordinary virtue found in those of other religions, like the dedication to prayer, the sincerity of compassion and charity toward the unfortunate, the living by conscience even at the point of suffering, as well as the persons’ humility, goodness, hospitality, courage and other good qualities.
That brings us to the third insight. For interpersonal, interreligious and intercultural dialogue to foster the common good, it must be driven by the conviction and awareness that the other is a good both in himself or herself, but also a good for me and the world. The other is not a threat. The other is not a competitor in an unending battle of survival of the fittest. The other is not an evil to be marginalized or eliminated. The other is an objective and subjective good.
The Book of Genesis says that when God created the human person, he saw and pronounced the person to be “very good.” Those who see with this Biblical divine worldview should strive to find, affirm and revere this goodness, and not be blinded to it by what is not in common. Moreover, believing in a Creator from whom all draw their origin, must be consequential in the way people treat each other. It should lead to an authentic fraternity, solidarity and culture of encounter on the basis of which authentic pluralism, harmony, and peace can be built. Differences among sons and daughters of a common Creator should not lead them to recapitulate the story of Cain and Abel, in which envy and a failure to exercise fraternity led to death for one and a lifetime of insecurity and guilt for the other. Rather, the recognition of the other’s divinely-bestowed dignity, and the rights flowing from that dignity, should guide us toward a standard of fraternity.
Pope Francis talks about this principle as “caminar juntos,” of journeying together, convinced that once people of different cultures and backgrounds, neighborhoods or nations, ethnic or religious roots, begin to walk together, they begin to recognize how much humanity they have in common, how much beauty and goodness exists in each other, and how much wisdom is imbued in the way the other approaches the most important questions of human life. This caminar juntos is a dialogue of life, sharing joys and sorrows. It’s a walk of friendship. It’s a journey that begins with conversations like the one we are having today here at the United Nations.
I thank you all for coming today to participate in this interpersonal, interreligious and intercultural conversation, and I look forward to your active participation in the discussions that will follow the presentations.
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