Photo by Eanna Marie Fernandez

By Aivy Rose N. Villarba

The Ateneo de Davao University organized a Pakighinabi on Intra-religious dialogue with Fr. Felix Körner, SJ, PhD last August 30 at the Finster Auditorium.

Christians, Muslims, and Indigenous peoples listened to the German Jesuit priest as he presented his thesis on How a Faith Tradition Can Rediscover its Unity.

Körner holds a doctorate in Islamic Studies and has spent parts of his life in Muslim majority countries including Syria and Turkey. After his second doctorate in Catholic dogmatics, he was called to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, an academic institution founded in 1553 by Ignatius of Loyola and now known for its mission to form future leaders of the universal Church from more than 120 countries.

In his opening remarks, University President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ expressed that as Muslims and Christians seek to find their way to closer understanding and respect for each other in the other’s privileged ways of worshipping the one God, both Muslims and Christian are also invited to find deeper insights into various receptions within their particular faith traditions.

“We are invited to notice that before this God of Truth we have no monopoly on truth, and no warrant to monopolize truth, and certainly no need to speak and act as if we were Truth,” he said.

Photo by Eanna Marie Fernandez

How a Faith Tradition Can Rediscover its Unity

“I have spoken out of Christian experience and as a Christian theologian. Grateful for having found many Muslim friends, I might also give some hints at Islam’s own traditions of Muslim–Muslim understanding and unity-in-diversity,” Körner said.

He discussed the Koran’s fundamental intention is to call everyone to conversion to the one and only God. The Koran speaks to free persons, free to take their own life decisions.

Körner said the Koran’s vision of the Muslims is for them to be the “middle community” and thus God’s “witnesses to all human beings” (šuhadāʾ ʿalā n-nās, al-Baqara 2:143).

 Another thesis Körner discussed is that reconciliation requires healing of memory.

“First we are all still carrying wounds in our memories which need healing. Healing of memory means to let our memories find healing,” the lead discussant said.

He added that memory is also the way for the future. Healing of memory means healing by digesting the past. Memory, remembering is important for the process of our healing.

He also shared the method of differentiated consensus between the Protestants and Catholics.

First step is to express a central faith question in wording that is acceptable for both faith traditions. Second, express why they have a different tradition and write down their particular “concerns.” Third is to write again together, declaring that those concerns do not cancel the common formula found at the beginning.

He said a dialogue that follows differentiated consensus will take different rounds until the right expression is found for the common faith formula.

“If we want to reach unity, our greatest faith teachers must come together, too,” Körner said.

Conceptual Clarification of ‘Unity’

In response to Körner’s presentation, Dr. Mansoor Limba, faculty of the Islamic Studies Department and member of the Al Qalam Institute discussed the concept of Islamic unity.

“Unity requires conceptual clarification. Otherwise, we will commit the same fate of the anecdotal four blind men – in the poetry of Hafiz – who claim to know what elephant is, whereas, in reality, each of them only touched an elephant’s body part,” Limba said.

He said Islamic unity may mean any of the three conceptions.

First is homogenization. He said the way to attain the unity of the Muslim ummah (community) is to homogenize all Muslim schools of thought; to unify the Islamic school of thought. The outcome of this approach to unity is takfir or to declare other Muslims as unbelievers (kafir) and, therefore, as apostates (murtaddin) – “whose blood is ought to be shed”.

“Another way to Islamic unity is ‘heterogeneity’ in which people assume that all these Muslim schools of thought are absolutely correct. The outcome of this approach is, in my view, is something that borders on hypocrisy (nifaq),” he said.

Limba shared the third way to achieve unity among the Muslims is the viable and reasonable one. It is proximity or taqrib. Under this conception of unity, there is the attempt at exploring common grounds as guided by mutual recognition and respect among the various Muslim schools of thought.

“Rather than takfir, taqrib is the way to rediscover Muslim unity, and a simple step viable to you and I at this point in time is the endorsement of the Amman Message,” he ended.

Distinguished leaders of Islam in Mindanao, Ulama, Asatidz, Muslim leaders of the civic community, Christian leaders, theologians, academicians, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and students also shared their insights in the latter part of the dialogue.

“Through this dialogue may we in our diversity all come closer to the one God and his peace,” Tabora said.

The Pakighinabi Conversation Series is designed to provide members of the University community a platform to discuss multidisciplinary issues and concerns in an open and friendly manner. It is a project of the Office of the University President.

For more photos from the event, visit the Ateneo de Davao University Gallery.

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