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Plurality Is At the Heart of Life

    Vidyajyoti College of Theology conducted a two day national seminar on “Witnessing to the Gospel in a polarised India” on 16-17 February 2015.  Two Jesuit sociologists: Prof. Rudolf Heredia and Prof. Ambrose Pinto made brilliant presentations on Religious Freedom: The Constitutional Debate and the Law Today and The Challenges of Minorities Christians and Dalits in India in the Present Context of Hindutva respectively.  A well known Indian theologian Prof. Jacob Parapally MSFS made an excellent presentation on Witnessing to the Gospel: Gift and Task in the Present Day India.

ALIGARH December 23: The national seminar on “Commonalities among Religions” organized by the Department of Sunni Theology, Aligarh Muslim University drew a resolution inviting people of all faith to unite and work for strengthening the pluralistic society.

The resolution stated that if peace is to be restored in today’s troubled world, then the Indian subcontinent, which is home to almost all religious faiths in the world, “would have to take the lead in ensuring justice to all sections of their respective populations”.

The seminar also made a strong call “for protecting the Indian constitution under which every individual has the right to propagate his or her religion and also follow the religion of their choice”.

     We thirteen Jesuits (five from JCAP and eight from JCSA) gathered at Nav Jivan Renewal Center, Delhi, from 19 to 21 December 2014 to share our experiences and concerns for the Jesuit mission among Muslims in Asia [JAMIA]. Fr Heru Prakosa SJ, one of the members of the expert committee that helps Fr General on the Society’s relations with diverse religions convened the meeting. The gathering had the blessings of both presidents of the Jesuit assistancies/conferences. Fr George Pattery SJ (POSA) presided over the concluding Eucharist affirmed that this meeting is significant since the two Assistancies meet in collaborative ministry.

On the first day we spent time in sharing with one another our work among Muslims. It is encouraging to note our work touch upon every important dimension of dialogue: theological reflection on Christian Muslim relations, initiatives in political dimension of dialogue to restore peace and harmony, working with youth to inculcate in respect for diverse faith and inspire in them a commitment to protect diversity, and keen interest in spiritual dimension of dialogue with Muslims.
Six major challenges emerged in our discussion.

On 13 December 2014, 23 youth from diverse faith traditions (13 Muslims, 7 Hindus and three Christians) participated in an interfaith youth weekend jointly organized by Interfaith Coalition for Peace, Zakat Foundation, Henry Martyn Institute: An International Center for Research, Interfaith Relations and Reconciliation and Islamic Studies Associationat Navinta, the Delhi Archdiocesan Retreat Centre. Ms Marina D’ Costa and Mr Deepak Raj from Mumbai and Chennai respectively conducted the program. Prof Deepali Bhanot and Victor Edwin SJ worked with the core team in organizing the program.

Members from the Centre for Peace and Spirituality (CPS) discussed ‘Interfaith dialogue, Peace, and Dawah’ with the students of theology at Vidyajyoti College of Theology (Delhi) on 25 November 2014 in a long afternoon session. The students at Vidyajyoti do two basic courses on Islam and Christian-Muslim Dialogue.

     Explaining the importance of interfaith dialogue in an atmosphere of misunderstanding about religion, Mr. Rajat began by talking about the approach to dialogue. There is diversity everywhere in nature, and religion cannot be exempted from this universal law of diversity. Thus, the idea that dialogue should be held for the purpose of eliminating all differences from religion and bringing about uniformity or oneness is not in accordance with the law of nature.

     Indialogue Foundation ( volunteers made presentations on the teachings of Fethullah Gülen, one of the most important contemporary Muslim theologians and a leading promoter of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, and the activities of his followers (Hizmet Movement) to the second year theology students of Vidyajyoti Jesuit School of Theology in Delhi on 18November 2014. The event aimed to introduce about M. Fethullah Gülen and Hizmet Movement, to highlight Muslim-Christian Relations, to inform about Indialogue Foundation activities in India and to foster ties with Theology students for future mutual programs.

 Growing up in a Christian environment, I never came across the Qur’an in my childhood. But this changed when I went to a Muslim country as a young adult to teach English. Having moved into a Muslim environment, I began to hear the regular call to prayer and to hear the sound of the Qur’an being chanted in the mosques. I became curious to know more about its message. Whenever I read the Qur’an in English, however, I wondered how this complex text was able to touch the hearts of so many people.

A group of Vidyajyoti students met with Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood for a theological interaction. Dr Mahmood is the founder president of Zakat Foundation of India [], Interfaith Coalition for Peace [], Iqbal Academy India [] and God's Grace Group of Educational Institutions. He graciously gave us time and shared with us his faith based reflection on Islam and Muslims in India.

General understanding of Islam

The conversation began with Dr Mahmood asking the audience as to what they understood as Islam. They talked about Islamic worship, to acknowledge Allah as One God, the Creator and Judge, the Only One who is worthy of worship. Every Muslim is commanded to pay attention to 'Islam'  (submission), external acts, obeying what God has commanded; 'Iman' (faith): more interior, believing in what God has taught; and, Ihsan (extra-goodness) or islah (self-correction) interiorizing the divine commands so that they give shape and expression to an upright, good life– going beyond the minimum to integrate all that God has revealed and commanded into every aspect of one’s behavior.

The five pillars