A symposium on the contribution of “traditional religions” to peace

Source: FSSPX News


The Council for Interreligious Dialog organized a symposium on “traditional religions” and their contribution to peace. This meeting, which took place from the 12th to the 15th of January, is “a first performance”, according to Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, President of the Council for Interreligious Dialog, which however recalls the theological symposium on “traditional religions and the message of the Gospel”, held in 1996 at Abidjan.

According to Bishop Fitzgerald, traditional religions are “ethnic” or “tribal” religions whose rites are passed from age to age by the peoples who practice them. The British archbishop gave as an example the Massai in Kenya or the Amerindians. Before the institution of interreligious dialog, people spoke of animist cults and missionaries endeavored to convert the followers of these pagan cults to Catholicism.

“A traditional religion is distinguished from a world religion like Christianity, Islam or Buddhism, which spreads from one country to another, by the fact that the former is confined to an ethnic group and does not have a universal vocation”. Bishop Fitzgerald also specified that these groups each have their own “specificity”, while emphasizing “the danger of generalization” of the way they are functioning.

This symposium is “oriented toward peace, because we believe peace is not reserved only to a certain few”. For the prelate, “it is the business of every category of society, and thus also of people marked by the values of traditional religions”.

Bishop Fitzgerald again explained that the initiative of the symposium hearkened back to the interreligious assembly of 1999. “We tried to observe the role of religions in the world today”, and “that led us to a reflection on religions and peace”. But “traditional religion did not have a place among those religions”, because their traditions are not written, but are transmitted orally from generation to generation. “We didn’t want to exclude the traditional religions, therefore we organized this symposium”.

Asked about how the symposium was going, Msgr. Fitzgerald explained that Christians, experts on these traditional religions, as well as seminary or university professors and members of missionary institutes were meeting at the Vatican. “We have thirty-odd participants from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania”, we added.

While it’s true that none of those chosen to participate were actual believers of the religions concerned, this was basically for “practical reasons”. These people generally only speak their own language. “We decided to invited experts with whom we could communicate more easily”. But these people are in contact with the communities and so “indirectly they did participate”.

Bishop Fitzgerald hoped that this encounter would not be “idealistic but realistic” (sic). “The role of our Council is not to practice dialog but to stimulate dialog” and to use it “as an encouragement to people situated in different parts of the world, an encouragement to take these religious traditions seriously, to share their values and to see in them possibilities to contribute to peace”. (re-sic)