This past week, theologian, author, professor, and Catholic priest Hans Küng passed away at the age of 93, may he rest in peace. His work was a powerful and liberating influence on me in graduate school. For starters, he appealed to one’s reason to make a case for a God that is both immeasurable and personal. His writings credibly point out that throughout the entire history of mankind there has never been a discovery of a body of people who did not have some trace of religion. That in mind, much of Küng’s work has a marvelous way of exploring the differing world religions and how people in all civilizations are faced with the same crucial, philosophical questions of existence, purpose, suffering and destiny. Küng found that oftentimes the answers to these ultimate questions were more similar than not.
A major theme in Küng’s interreligious work is that to achieve peace among nations we must have peace among religions. Reaching peace among religions requires dialogue, and that dialogue involves exploring the other religion as fully as possible. This process starts responsibly by knowing your own background and tradition. Then you enter into another’s experience with respect and openness. Subsequently, you will typically return from the encounter enriched. This beautiful practice is of course reciprocal and ongoing.
Though Küng’s books helped me years ago to write my synthesis paper (Promoting Global Justice & Peace through Interreligious Dialogue), I’ve learned that the principals for interreligious dialogue can be applied to many relationships in life. When we can move past the challenges of fear, hostility, or intolerance to really have a cooperative exchange of experiences and ideas, genuine transformation can happen. As we dialogue we are invited to deepen our perspectives, whether that be of God, or another race, or politics, or gender, or our neighbor, and so forth.
Let us be open to communicating our positions and understandings with goodwill toward one another. In doing so we can usher in the enlightenment that is bound to come with such exchanges. This is the work of building bridges — connecting with one another — and it is a gift.
May you be inspired!