Other Faiths in India Still on Edge, Asian Theologian Warns

George Karakunnel Talks of «Dominus Iesus» Message

ROME, OCT. 20, 2000 (ZENIT.org).- The uniqueness of Christ's salvation is an idea that projects an air of «superiority» of Christianity and agitates nonbelievers in India, a theologian says.

«Interreligious harmony is being increasingly replaced by enmity and rivalry,» Indian theologian George Karakunnel warned in an address to the World Congress on Mission Theology.

The congress, which closed today, was held at the Pontifical Urban University in preparation for Sunday's Jubilee of Missions.

The congress addressed the central question of the Vatican' recent «Dominus Iesus» declaration: how to proclaim the salvation brought by Christ in a pluralist, and at times relativist, society.

The participants' interest in India was significant, since some scholars and cardinals have noted that «Dominus Iesus» was written with Indian theologians in mind ( see «Cardinal Cassidy Appeals to Jews to Renew Dialogue» in the Sept. 26 ZENIT archives at http://www.zenit.org/english/ ).

Professor Karakunnel, of the theology department of Aluve, addressed the fundamental question of the declaration, «the unique and universal character of the salvation brought by Christ.»

He said that the topic has generated and continues to generate friction, especially with Hinduism. The reference to the uniqueness of Christ's salvation is not always understood, the theologian added, because when «the term is taken in the interrelgious context, it projects an idea of the 'superiority' of Christianity in relation to other religions.»

Karakunnel said that dialogue did not mean «equality among religions»; rather, it «implies an existential acceptance of the other.»

This, he said, is expressed in the concept that Sanskrit «very happily» summarizes in the term «Sarvadharmasamabhavana,» which is not a theory of the equality of religions, nor does it simply mean tolerance.

Rather, it expresses «the result of the personal experience that each one has of the ultimate mystery, through which one is able to understand and respect the other's similar experience,» Karakunnel said.

Therefore, he added, «Indian theologians in general have the feeling that the word 'uniqueness' does not help to transmit the message they are hoping to pass on.» Karakunnel agrees with the postsynodal document «Ecclesia in Asia,» which affirms that, «the one Savior can only be manifested through unique testimony implied in action.»

Mother Teresa's example demonstrates that this commitment is especially eloquent in total self-giving to the poor, the Indian theologian stressed.

«The affirmation of one's own faith should not wound others' faith,» Karakunnel said. «When asked what her position was as regards other religions, Mother Teresa answered with simple words rich in theological content: 'I love all religions, but I am in love with mine.'»

«To love all religions, but to live in love with one's own, making of it a testimony that reveals its unique character,» that is the secret, the professor said. «This seems to be the challenge Christians face in India.»

In preparation for the Jubilee of Missions, the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has simultaneously organized another congress (see story below). That one, at Castel Gandolfo, has a missionary character and has attracted missionaries from around the world.

Zenit - The World Seen From Rome
20. oktober 2000

av Webmaster publisert 23.10.2000, sist endret 23.10.2000 - 12:51