“Dialogue and Diversity”: Meeting of the Coordinators of Dialogue of the West Zone Jesuit Provinces

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Date: April 5, 2018 Venue: Vinayalaya, Mumbai

Vincent Sekhar SJ, Secretary of JCSA for Dialogue organized a meeting of the co-ordinators of the four Jesuit provinces of the Western region along with their lay collaborators on 5th of April, 2018 in Vinayalaya, Mumbai. The co-ordinators present in the meeting were the following: Prashant Olalekar SJ of Bombay Province, Prakash Bhalerao SJ of Pune Province, Jose Panadan SJ of Gujarat Province, and MeninoGonslaves SJ of Goa Province. Besides the four coordinators, there was one lay associate from Bombay province who is a social scientist and two lay associates from the Pune Province, who work in close touch with SnehaSadan, Pune.

The meeting began with a prayerful reflection led by Vincent Sekharwhich emphasized on the theme Diversity and Tolerance. This was followed by a summary presentation on the given articles by each of the co-ordinators. After each presentation there was a moment of silence followed by a response at the feeling and discursive level.

Prashant Olalekar presented the article titled Pope Francis and Dialoguewritten by Dr. Michael Amaladoss SJ, which focused on some of the approaches and initiatives taken by Pope Francis in certain contexts with a focus on dialogue and reconciliation both in words and deeds.MeninoGonsalves gave a summary of the document Dialogue in Truth and Charity: Pastoral Orientations for Interreligious Dialogue, which was published by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in 2014. The group resonated with the basic openness towards dialogue shown by the above-mentioneddocument but at the sametimestrongly felt that South Asia must play a much more effective role by providing greater doctrinal clarity and practical implications. The third paper was presented by Prakash Bhalerao under the title Managing Diversity: the Challenges for India, which was a unique paper in the sense that it offered certain perspectives on managing diversity from the point view of the corporate secular world. Just as the corporate companies use diversity to gain a competitive advantage in the market, the model invitedus to promote diversity and dialogue to build a better society. Jose Panadan gave a brief summary of Sunny Jacob’s article Peace Education: the Need of the Hour, which provided concrete proposals to make peace education more effective through educational apostolate.

After the Eucharist presided over by Prakash Bhalerao, the group met again in the afternoon to listen to one another the initiatives taken by different provinces towards inter-religious dialogue. Of many positive efforts, the following are worthy to mention: the monthly magazine Niropyaedited and published by SnehaSadan; the Interreligious gatherings on Christmas and other occasions; the Interreligious Studies initiated in St. Xavier’s College; and the several activities planned and executed in an established institute like the IDCR, Chennai. Many initiatives are taken by several individuals, but sadly discontinued after the time of their departure from their places. And some centres with political overtones are at the verge of closing!

The meeting came to an end with a short presentation by Vincent Sekhar on the statement issued by the JCSA titled Contesting Hindu Rashtra: An Alternative Narrative and Strategies for Reconciliation in the New India. This document imposed a great challenge on the minorities and the well-intended citizens of India in preserving the twin-pillars of democracy and secularism, guaranteed by the Constitutions of India. The present religio-political scenario in the country called for the conviction in and promotion of the Constitutional values of liberty, equality, justice, and fellowship. But the participants generally felt that the discussed JCSA Statement on Hindu Nationalism has not really picked up in the provinces for various reasons. The West Zone meeting gave a new impetus to the participants to once again assure their individual and networked collaboration with their religious neighbours and institutions towards ensuring dialogue and harmony.

Jose Panadan, S.J.

Vincent Sekhar SJ