Building inter-faith bridges

A helpful framework for engaging in inter-faith relationships was shared by the Most Rev Archbishop William Goh (right) of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore on 31 March 2016, at Trinity Annual Conference’s (TRAC) Board of Outreach and Social Concerns (BOSC) annual Thanksgiving Dinner.

About 100 church leaders and volunteers gathered at the Methodist Centre at Barker Road to give thanks to the Lord for the work of local churches in social concerns, and for a time of fellowship over dinner, worship and learning from Archbishop Goh, who spoke on the topic of “Interfaith Relations – Peace Making and Bridge Building”.

He started by affirming the importance of service to the poor, for faith without works is dead (James 2:20), and that Christian charity flows from our conviction that God is love. Hence, Christian social work is not simply humanitarian work, but has at its end a desire to show the unconditional love of God to all, regardless of race, language or religion.

Archbishop Goh reminded us, however, that we need to be sensitive to the people we are serving. In order for us to be effective servants of the Lord, people need to see genuine love in us, aimed not at conversion, but an offer of the good news of Christ’s love.

He advocated that in our relationships with other faiths, it is important for us to remember that firstly, Brotherhood is a mark of all humanity, for we all have the same Creator, and in that regard, are all children of God. That calls for us to bring the best out of each other and to grow in fraternal love.

Secondly, we ought to stress what is Common. If we see all truths as being anchored in Jesus Christ who is the fullness of truth, then whoever participates in what is good and what is holy, for example in social justice, has something in common which can then be emphasised and related to.

Thirdly, we need to recognise the Distinctiveness of each faith, since each one’s faith is in a sense shaped by his or her own experience, and therefore is personal and real to him or her. This requires us to afford mutual respect for others in our conversations with then.

Finally, as we Dialogue with other faiths, we ought to do so at a level that each individual is comfortable with, and all of us can dialogue in one of these four levels: life, love, charity, and doctrine.

TRAC President Rev Dr Gordon Wong then chaired a Q&A session with Archbishop Goh, which helped further elucidate the points he made in the talk.

Mr Poh Zhi Hui, a Lay Ministry Staff from Kampong Kapor Methodist Church who participated in the dinner, appreciated the framework shared by Archbishop Goh. He said: “Rather than undermining the Christian’s witness, inter-faith relationships, if engaged in properly, ensure that the good works of the Church are received by those outside the Church as gifts of God’s love, and bear fruit instead of being viewed with suspicion and rejected.

”May Christ help us to make peace and build bridges as a witness of His love.

Photos courtesy of William Chua

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The Rev Benjamin Lee –is an Assistant Pastor at Wesley Methodist Church.