THAILAND – Christians and Muslims work together to promote harmony and peace
Catholic bishops attended the inauguration of a new mosque in Bangkok in an initiative to foster interreligious dialogue and harmony between Christian and Muslim communities. Both Muslims and Christians are minorities in Thailand, where 93 percent of residents are Buddhist.
“We need to build more solid bridges and destroy many walls of hatred and prejudices …. We have to look optimistically to the actual empirical realities and pastoral concerns, taking our strong faith, love, and hope to effect interreligious dialogue and peace,”said Monsignor Andrew Vissanu Thanya Anan, deputy secretary-general of the Thai bishops’ conference.
Mgr. Vissanu was one of the keynote speakers at a seminar on how to maintain harmony among religions in Thailand’s multicultural society. In his speech he stressed that dialogue is the key for living and growing together humanly in a pluralistic, multicultural society and stated “The differences of religions and traditions should not be a cause of conflict, and the quest for peace is the responsibility of all believers.”
He also told the Muslim community that Pope Francis had urged people of all religions to unite in efforts for peace and pointed to local Catholics’ constant effort to build peace. Mgr. Vissanu described the atmosphere at the seminar as welcoming and friendly, adding that the Muslim leaders “appreciated the efforts of Pope Francis, and the local Church’s attempts at collaboration and dialogue with Muslims.”
The seminar was held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the headquarters of the Islamic Center of Thailand. The celebrations at the Islamic Center of Thailand included an interreligious march for peace in which many Christians participated. The Catholic and Muslim communities also exchanged gifts, to strengthen the bonds of friendship and their commitment to continue to work together for peace and harmony in their country.
Msgr. Vissanu said that in Asia interreligious dialogue was particularly important because of growing persecution and absence of peace. He emphasised that “interreligious dialogue should not be just an event or a show” but that the people “need to join hands with humility so that we can concretely explore new areas and share religious values.” He also expressed his hope that the ideas of dialogue could be promoted among youth in schools.