Today I want to shamelessly steal some words by the great prophet of dialogue, Raimon Panikkar. These words preface his collection of essays on ‘The Intrareligious Dialogue’ and are a sort of ‘sermon on the mount’ for those undertaking such dialogue. However, they stand on their own as deep wisdom for all who seek an authentic religious path in our complex and multi-religious world. He uses the word ‘intrareligious’ in recognition of the common impulses and instincts we find with the ‘thou’ who is our partner in dialogue.
When you enter into an intrareligious dialogue, do not think beforehand what you have to believe.
When you witness to your faith, do not defend yourself or your vested interests, sacred as they may appear to you. Do like the birds in the skies: they sing and fly and do not defend their music or their beauty.
When you dialogue with somebody, look at your partner as a revelatory experience, as you would- and should – look at the lilies in the field.
When you engage in intrareligious dialogue, try first to remove the beam in your own eye before removing the speck in the eye of your neighbour.
Blessed are you when you do not feel self-sufficient when in dialogue.
Blessed are you when you trust the other because you trust in Me.
Blessed are you when you face misunderstandings from your own community or others for the sake of your fidelity to Truth.
Blessed are you when you do not give up on tour convictions, and yet you do not set them up as absolute norms.
Woe unto you, you theologians and academicians, when you dismiss what others say because you find it embarrassing or not sufficiently learned.
Woe unto you, you practitioners of religions, when you do no listen to the cries of the little ones.
Woe unto you, you religious authorities, because you prevent change and (re)conversion.
Woe unto you, religious people, because you monopolise religion and stifle the Spirit, which blows where and how she wills.