The Dialogue of the Third Millennium

The Dialogue of the Third Millennium

Visit by the participants of the
Fourth Buddhist-Christian Symposium


The program of the symposium held at the end of May at Castel Gandolfo, after five days of work, also had one further part to it: a two-day visit to Loppiano. The group of guests also stopped in at the Sophia University Institute.

 

The message of greeting from Nichiko Niwano, president of the Buddhist Association, Rissho Kosei-kai, reads: “Not only to find the points in common, but to build together a world full of love and compassion, remaining faithful to the identity of each religion, is the extraordinary aspect of this Symposium which is hard to find the likes of elsewhere.” They are words that well states the deep climate of mutual trust that has been built through the years.


The conference was entitled: “To Interpret and Live the Scriptures to Build Harmony and Universal Peace”  and it was the fourth one, following the ones held, beginning in 2004, at Castel Gandolfo, Italy, in Osaka, Japan, and at Chiang Mai, Thailand.

 



The diversity of the participants was recognizable, besides their different countries of origin -  Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, England, USA, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. They were also distinguishable by their different affiliations: among the Buddhists there were representatives of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, in addition to those from the Rissho Kosei-kai, an international Buddhist Movement that has been collaborating for over 30 years with the Focolare Movement. Also present were members of the traditional schools of Buddhism, such as the  Tendai-shu, the Nichiren-shu, the Hosso-shu and Chinese Buddhism; and a contribution was also given by a Korean representative of Won Buddhism. Among the Christians present, much appreciated was the inclusion of an Anglican priest, a Reformed Pastor and a lay Lutheran woman.


The anticipated meeting with the academic community of Sophia was marked by a special note due to the presence among the students of Metta Surinkaew, a young Thai Buddhist woman who had just completed her two-year Master’s program and is now preparing to discuss her thesis. For good reason, therefore, the President of the IUS, Piero Coda, in welcoming the group in the main hall and offering them a warm greeting, used particularly incisive words: “Know that you are at home here…. As has been said by well known scholars, the steps that guide the encounter between Buddhism and Christianity will increasingly define the Third Millennium. This is why the Symposium that is ending in these days is a step that is drawing our future humanity closer.”

 

A festive moment of introductions followed: in rapid succession, interesting points emerged to pursue in this dialogue, above all to grow in the mutual knowledge of each other. “Only by reciprocally listening and respect for the specificity of the other can allow us to journey together and the road then becomes a real pilgrimage” – words said by Roberto Catalano, one of the organizers of the Symposium.


“We have a lot in common; I am drawn by this word: sophia – wisdom. I am working to bring the idea of your university to my country and I hope that more Buddhist youth can be welcomed here”  - so expressed Rev. Bonsue, vice-president of the Chiang Mai University in Thailand.


His wish was fully shared. The fact that the first Doctoral thesis at Sophia, to be discussed during the upcoming Fall session, deals with Interreligious dialogue further confirms this.

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