Throughout 2018-2019, the Spiritual Animation Committee of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) has helped us respond to the invitation to reflect on what we can learn from people of different cultures, races and religious beliefs.
The Acts of the 2006 General Chapter, on page 5, state: "We experience the richness that comes from sharing between cultures and religions. At the same time, we are faced with intercultural and interreligious conflict that threatens our world with violence and war.” Inspired by these words, the committee planned six meetings to open doors to a dialogue which seems more necessary than ever today. Pope Francis has spoken frequently about this dialogue, including during his recent visit to Morocco:
“This entails encountering and accepting others in their distinctive religious beliefs and enriching one another through our diversity, in a relationship marked by good will and by the pursuit of ways we can work together. Understood in this way, creating bridges between people – from the point of view of interreligious dialogue – calls for a spirit of mutual regard, friendship and indeed fraternity.”
(March 30, 2019)
At the various meetings we welcomed Jewish, Christian (Anglican and Orthodox) and Muslim women who, in the name of their faith and their personal journey, answered the question, "Who is God for me?”
In presenting the project of interreligious dialogue, Sister Lise Bluteau quoted the Sufi mystic Ibri Arabi: "God is too big to be locked into a creed.”
This was echoed by Ms. Samia Amor, a Muslim witness at one of the meetings:
"Faith is a gift from God. Religious plurality and the diversity of people, languages and cultures are part of the divine plan that invites us to converse together. For God is like a multi-faceted crystal and each religion presents a different face of God. Coming together to share allows us to see all the facets together. "
The meetings were marked by simplicity, mutual openness, dialogue and the sharing of life stories. Each meeting included a time of prayer based on sacred texts that helped us experience an encounter with the God we share in common. Because of these meetings, we and the women witnesses became sisters in faith, professing belief in one God.
The six meetings helped us live an experience of inner transformation. As so well stated by one participant, "They opened our eyes, minds and hearts." They also raised our awareness of both the distinctive and similar elements in our various religions. And, above all, they gave us the desire to continue sharing in small groups in order to get to know each other better.
Source: Sr Marie-Paule Demarbre