Columban Missionaries work for building better relations between Christians and Muslims in accord with the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Why we dialogue
The teaching of the Catholic Church motivates and inspires Columban missionaries to reach out to Muslims in dialogue and friendship:
- Our Christian confession of the Trinity God as a communion of three Persons, in whose image all are made, motivates us to build communion with Muslims and with believers from different religions.
- We seek to uncover the "seeds of the Word" (Gaudium Et Spes, 11) and a "ray of that truth which enlightens all men and women" (Nostra Aetate, 2) in the scriptures, traditions and spiritual treasures of Islam.
- We discern the "working of the Spirit" (Redemptoris Missio, 56) in the religious devotion of Muslims, their spirituality and their sincere efforts to do good and to promote justice.
- We learn of the riches that the Father has bestowed (Ad Gentes, 11) on Muslim civilisations as part of the religious, scientific and cultural heritage of the world.
Our society and our world is becoming increasingly multi-religious. More and more, believers from different religions live and work side-by-side in factories, schools and offices. Building mutual understanding between people of different faiths and promoting mutual respect and cooperation is crucial for ensuring a culture of peace and harmony in society.
"An attitude of openness in truth and in love must characterize the dialogue with the followers of non-Christian religions, in spite of various obstacles and difficulties, especially forms of fundamentalism on both sides. Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities." (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 250)
In an age of instant global media, religious diversity is inescapable. If Muslims, Jews and believers from other religions are not living or working in a particular neighbourhood, then they enter our homes via TV, the internet and mobile devices. We do not see this as a threat to be feared. Rather, we see it as an opportunity to widen our horizons, to ask new questions and to gain new insights into "the height, breadth and depth of God’s" all-inclusive "love," (Ephesians 3:18).
"Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes."
As followers of the crucified and risen Christ, we identify with all who suffer. Muslims today suffer from a bad reputation. Violent acts committed by a few extremists give all Muslims a bad name. Although the acts are contrary to clear Quranic precepts and Islamic teaching, sensationalist media reporting multiplies the negative stereotype. Columban missionaries choose to stand in solidarity with the vast majority of Muslims who are wrongfully subjected to suspicion. With them, we condemn all violence as being incompatible with genuine religion. Mindful of the Gospel injunction to "first remove the beam out of your own eye" before attempting to remove the speck in others’ eyes (Matthew 7:5), we do not join in the chorus of accusation. Rather, we accentuate the positive and seek to cooperate on the many areas we have in common while respecting our differences.
"Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence." (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 253)
Our current global situation makes Christian-Muslim relations particularly urgent. One in three people in the world is Christian; one in five is Muslim. Together, Christians and Muslims make up over 50% of the world’s population. If there is to be meaningful peace in the world, there must be mutual understanding and respect between Christians and Muslims.
"Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends." (Pope Benedict XVI, 20 August 2005)
Throughout a long history of association, Christians and Muslims have experienced both harmonious co-existence and also conflicts. Columban missionaries in Britain, Fiji, Pakistan, the Philippines, and increasingly in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, recognise both the potential and the threat involved.
Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. "The sacred council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values" (Nostra Aetate, 3).
When Christians work together with Muslims, and believers from other religions and with people of goodwill, with a shared commitment and collective effort, we are more effective at building a culture towards world peace.
How we dialogue
We build mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims by getting to know one another. Personal encounter is crucial. Columban missionaries in Australia actively participate and attend Muslim religious, social and cultural events. Knowledge too and education is important so to overcome ignorance, stereotypes and prejudices by learning and disseminating accurate information about our respective faith traditions. Through dialogue we cooperate together on matters of shared concern.
- We nuture friendships with Muslim individuals and organisations, and partner with them in community-oriented projects.
- We organise and facilitate events where Christians and Muslims and believers from other religions can meet, dialogue and learn from one another.
- We give talks and run educational seminars for schools, teachers, parish and other community groups.
- We publish the quarterly newsletter, Bridges.
- We promote The Golden Rule Poster, an Australian resource for building and promoting interfaith relations.
- We participate and organise events and conferences that enable Interreligious Dialogue and promotes mutual understanding between different religions and faith traditions.
- We are invited to participate in community Muslim celebrations such as Eid (that marks the end of Ramadan) and Iftar dinners.
- We teach tertiary level academic courses on Islam and on Interreligious Dialogue.
- We provide publications on Islam, Christian-Muslim Relations and interreligious dialogue.