Interreligious Dialogue

Fr. In-gun Kang, S.J. is a Korean Jesuit priest who leads the inter-religious dialogue and intellectual apostolate from Jesuit Mission. He has been showing his enthusiasm in various activities including giving lectures, workshops, and seminars, participating in the Cambodian Buddhism Peace Walk, and focusing on public relations and human resources. He is in charge of Buddhism Research and Dialogue in JCAP (Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific), and Asian Contextual Theology program for young Jesuits. Moreover, Pope Francis, in September 2020, appointed him as a member of Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, established to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between the Catholic Church and other religions. Here he explains how JCAP and Roman Headquarter think of inter-religious dialogue, how they support it, and what their vision is.

Interreligious Dialogue

After Vatican Council II, ‘interreligious dialogue’ became an important task in the Church. In the 34th general congregation, Jesuits announced ‘inter-religious dialogue’ as one of three principals together with ‘faith that does justice’ and ‘inculturation’. Therefore Jesuits provide full support for inter-religious dialogue. It is emphasized that all Jesuit companions should consider it as one of the core principles when they carry out any missions. In fact, JMC apostolic priorities: (1) Living in harmony in our common home (2) Transformative education (3) Addressing the needs of the local church (4) Accompanying migrant workers and communities left behind) can be achieved only in the spirit of collaboration with other religions and people of goodwill. Moreover, we cannot pursue true education, which has become the most important mission in Jesuit Mission in Cambodia (JMC), without Buddhism studies and dialogues here in Cambodia because Buddhism is a part of their life.

There are four dimensions of inter-religious dialogue, which are daily dialogue in daily life, dialogue for social issues, intellectual dialogue, and spiritual dialogue. Through JMC, we go through all the dimensions and try to have as many approaches as possible. In addition, JCAP assigned 2 secretaries under chairman Pries. One is a Buddhism expert, and the other is an Islam expert. Secretaries like myself lead gatherings of Jesuit researchers, hold yearly workshops, and run one-month programs that help young priests to experience other religions and to have a theological reflection.

In fact, inter-religious dialogue and intellectual apostolate are not two different things. The relationship between them is important because ‘while action without theory is blindness, theory without action is vanity.’ Human being goes along with theory and action. By studying theory, one can realize new things and start an action. One can get more insight and develop its theory by taking action. Due to genocide and a long civil war, Cambodia lost many human resources at once. That’s why there are only a few theory studies in every area. Inter-religious dialogue is not an exception.

The future of Cambodia depends on local human resources who can constantly research for knowledge of the humanities and take action. Science and technology education students are supported by the Cambodian government. But the study of the humanities can be in serious trouble without our help. The interreligious dialogue will ripen its fruit by local students educated through intellectual apostolate. A poet once said ‘Human is the hope.’ I want to deliver this message to Cambodian people who are in suffering from political, economic injustice, and poverty. If many youths start to (1) be flexible to other religions and ideologies based on deep understanding and practice of traditional religion and culture (2) devote themselves to build up social justice rather than becoming slaves of enormous materialism and egoism, and (3) dedicate themselves to make a better world with solidarity despite social corruption and violence, they will make Cambodia shine as a big light of hope.