Saturday, January 07, 2017

Heeding pope’s call, Saigon Catholics renew interfaith dialogue Committee for Interreligious Dialogue in Ho Chi Minh City ha answered Pope Francis’s call on World Peace Day, 1 January, and renewed its pastoral outreach to Buddhists, Muslims and representatives of other faiths.
Such an initiative is inspired by spirit of Vatican Council II and is meant, as the pontiff said, to underline that "terrorism has no religion", that violence desecrates God’s name, and that "only peace is Holy, not war" .

For several years, the Committee set up by Card Gioan Baotixia Phạm Minh Mẫn on 5 December 2009 has promoted meetings and seminars on the doctrines of other religions present in city formerly known as Saigon.

This includes Buddhism, the country’s main religion, but also other religions, like Cao Đài, Đạo Hòa Hảo and Haha'I.

The group, which is linked to the archdiocese in southern Vietnam, has promoted regular relations with other believers, creating strong ties of friendship and brotherhood.

Over time, this has led to joint charity and social work to benefit the poorest and most disadvantaged communities.

Meeting the members of other religions has also been an opportunity for priests, religious and lay people, as a way to share experiences of religious life and deal with old conflicts and misunderstandings.

According to the Vietnamese (and Chinese) calendar, 2017 is the year of the rooster, a symbol of speed, agility, and dynamism and this will be the guiding principle of the activities of Saigon’s Committee for Interreligious Dialogue over the next few months.

Thus, participants will be allowed to share experiences, helping Catholics better understand other faiths and the activities carried out by their believers. In turn, this will boost ties of friendship and brotherhood.

Đỗ, a young student at the Don Bosco School, told AsiaNews that in past years he visited "some centres for the disabled, orphans, HIV-positive minors and free medical clinics" run by Buddhists.

In fact, some Catholics work in facilities that hand out food to the poor. Various Catholic churches help with "resources and raw materials" to charitable activities promoted by Buddhist groups.

At the same time, Cao Đài believers and Buddhists have been invited to speak to young students at outreach centres run by the Archdiocese of Saigon on their "religious practices," all in the name of "harmony" between religions and to the "benefit" of the public.

One of the various meetings and courtesy calls stands out, that by the current Archbishop of Saigon, Mgr Phaolô Bùi Văn Đọc, to the Buddhist Administrative Council for the 2,558th birthday of Buddha.

On that occasion, the Venerable Buddhist Master Thích Trí Quang expressed hope that the unique "ties" with Christians could be strengthened under the bishop’s leadership.

In his answer, the prelate mentioned the importance of religion in protecting the “moral and social” environment of southern Vietnam’s metropolis.

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