“We are living in an unprecedented time of inter-religious awareness. Pluralism is a fact of life.”  That is according to Fr. Francis Clooney, SJ who presented at our workshop, “Learning Interreligiously as a Key to a Better World.”

Fr. Clooney says that it is impossible to know one’s faith if we are not aware of other faith traditions.  He argues it is our job to pay attention to the faith diversity in which we live.  In order to do this, Fr. Clooney recommends that people examine the complexities of their own lives and their own faith traditions and then learn about the complexities in the lives and faith traditions of others. The individual can then use that knowledge to reexamine what is unique about their beliefs and begin to approach those beliefs with a different perspective. He stresses that no individual or group with different faith traditions than our own should be trivialized. He calls on each of us to be “intelligent believers” in our own faith tradition.

Fr. Clooney spoke of his experience learning about Hinduism by living in India and teaching high school students.  He decided the best way to relate to the boys he taught was to learn all that he could about Hinduism and Buddhism.  He was able to use his own Catholic faith traditions to understand the faith traditions of the people he was teaching.  This understanding and study of other religions aligns directly with social justice.  Learning and knowledge of groups with different beliefs allows for justice for different groups, not just those who hold your own beliefs.  Interreligious learning allows for respect of life and the environment.

He talked about how being open and interreligious makes a person “a good Catholic.”  At no time in history was there ever one religion.  As Pope Francis has said, pluralism and diversity of religions is willed by God.  We will always be living among people of other faiths and beliefs.  Even in times of crisis, like the environment crisis, people can consider various religious traditions and their approach to crises to develop solutions with broad acceptance.

Learning interreligiously creates a more welcoming, open and just world, and allows individuals to understand and connect with their faith. Thank you to Fr. Clooney for this important and enlightening discussion.