December 7, 2009
Parliament of World Religions, Melbourne
The specific focus of this session was: What is the Religious Imperative to represent the other faithfully. The discussion identified a crucial stage that precedes the theological accounting for the other. Any attempt to accomodate the other within one’s religious worldview is based on some kind of description of the other. But how is the other described? How accurate is the informaton we use about the other? And is there a religious basis for seeking to represent the other in ways that are faithful to the other? An impressive list of theologians from six traditions took part in these programs. These include Tariq Ramadan, Paul Knitter, Arvind Sharma, Balwant Singh Dhillon,John Pawlikowski, John Thatamanil, H H Swami Amarananda, Marcus Braybrooke, Ruben Habito and Hans Kung.
Participants in the conversations noted the originality of the topic. Not only does it precede the actual work of theology of religions, but in many ways it is the basis for any such theology. And in terms of our religious traditions there are actually very few resources in light of which we could develop a religiously based imperative to represent the other faithfully. The history of viewing the other changes from one tradition to the other, but many of our traditions have a history of mockery, caricature and disdain in how they portray another religion. Identifying a basis, within the spiritual teachings of the religions, for portraying other religions in a more faithful and truthful way is thus a constructive theological challenge.