India has never felt the need for inter-religious dialogue now more than ever. The volatile situation in the country and the recent communal incidents in Goa call for close introspection and need for understanding each others' religious traditions and belief.
With a conscious attempt to build goodwill and harmony among communities, the Pilar Pilgrim Centre, Pilar, recently hosted a two-day seminar, 'Basics of Inter-Religious Dialogue', on August 26-27, 2023.
Over 80 participants from 40 parishes attended the dialogue which was jointly organised by the Apostolate of Inter-Religious Dialogue and Sadbhav - forums for inter-religious works of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman and the Society of Pilar, respectively.
During the event, the convener of Sadbhav, Fr Elvis Fernandes, said that the event was designed to instill, nurture and develop the value of inter-religious dialogue. He further said that "we need to be creative and build new ways of goodwill and harmony between communities."
The first day of the event touched upon the 'Understanding Inter-Religious Dialogue (IRD); what it is? What it is not? And why IRD?'. This session was conducted by professor at the Pilar Theological Institute, Fr Ivon Almeida, who emphasised that inter-religious dialogue should be life, and not merely religion, as life is greater than religion.
Later, the convenor of the Apostolate of Inter-Religious Dialogue spoke on the topic of 'Creed, Code and Cult of India’s Major religions'. In his presentation, he explained the basic tenets of Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism. He concluded his presentation by emphasising on four words important for Inter-Religious Dialogue: Accept, Respect, Introspect and Act.
The day two of the inter-religious seminar was conducted by Professor at the Pilar Theological Institute, Fr Santosh Mendonca, and Professor at the Rachol Seminary, Fr Heston Ferrao.
The two speakers enlightened the audience with references from the Bible that focused on seeing goodness in all people, to love without boundaries and that God’s mercy and love extends to all.
The presentation ‘Religion and the Human Mind’ by Fr Elvis Fernandes touched upon the psychological processes behind religious experiences and understanding the psychological dimensions that foster greater interfaith dialogue, promote spiritual well-being, and create a more inclusive and empathetic society.
Assistant Professor at St Xavier’s College, Fr Ramiro Luis, facilitated the group discussion on both days. The group participants discussed some well-known personalities who are known to have been role models of inter-religious living. They also watched videos on values for inter-religious harmony and discussed a roadmap for inter-religious dialogue activities at the parish, deanery and institutional level.
The event concluded with Episcopal Vicar for North, Fr Deniz Fernandes, and former Superior of the Society of Pilar, Fr Jesuino Almeida, speaking at the event.