Thursday, 22 August 2013

Let's be friends (even if we disagree)

Francis japanese

I know I keep talking about Pope Francis, but I can’t help telling you about his meeting with a group of Japanese school kids yesterday, since his words there were an even further crystalized and simplified exposition of the ideas he shared in the message to Muslims last month.

First, it’s worth noting a bit of the back story though. The 200 pupils - both Buddhist and Christian - of the Seibu Gakuen Bunri Junior High School from Tokyo had planned a trip to Rome long before the Vatican announced that Pope Francis wouldn’t be holding general audiences during the month of August. Not wanting to disappoint them, Francis instead met just with their small group yesterday in the courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

To begin with, Francis praised them for their visiting a foreign country, since:
“to meet other people, other cultures is always good for us, it helps us grow. And, why? Because if we are isolated in ourselves we only have what we have, we cannot grow culturally; instead, if we go in search of other people, other cultures, other ways of thinking, other religious, we come out of ourselves and begin that beautiful adventure that is called “dialogue”.”
Then, he moved on to the core of his short talk, where he proposes meekness as the method of dialogue - a subject he has spoken of at least a dozen timed during his morning homilies:
“And what is the most profound attitude that we should have in order to dialogue and not fight? Meekness, the ability to find people, to find culture, with peace; the ability to make intelligent questions: “Why do you think this way?” “Why does this culture does that?” To listen to others and then talk. First listen, then talk. All of this is meekness.”
His next words though are what really caught my attention since they embody the essence of how dialogue must be an activity among friends and how its purpose is mutual understanding rather than conquest or proselytizing:
“And if you do not think like me - well, you know ... I think in a different way, you do not convince me - but we are still friends, I have listened to how you think and you have listened to how I think.”
Having the head of the Catholic Church lay out his view of and expectations from dialogue in this simple way is a big deal. While these ideas are not new by any means, their plain exposition here leaves little room for misinterpretation and is a great contribution to the development of closer relationships not only between believers of different faiths but also none.

Finally, Francis wraps up his address by pointing to the ultimate end of dialogue, which is peace: “This dialogue is what makes peace. You cannot have peace without dialogue. All wars, all struggles, all problems that are not resolved, with which we face, are due to a lack of dialogue. When there is a problem, dialogue: this makes peace.”