I found myself quite moved watching the short clip on Saturday’s peace vigil in St Peter’s Square. (You can watch it here). What moved me was the presence of people from different religions gathering in one place to pray for peace. It strikes me that this is the purpose of inter-religious dialogue. To be able to pray alongside one another – each in our own way but for the same thing. To do requires that we trust that each person will be true to themselves and not require conversion from anyone else.
We live in a world which seems to be obsessed by the extrinsic – to be considered successful has particular markers in different environments. How many papers you have published; the kind of car you drive; the neighbourhood you live in; where you go on holiday. But sustainable satisfaction comes from the intrinsic – doing something to the best of your ability; holding your nerve through turbulent times; encountering God in the everyday.
To truly respect another person, I find I have to trust their intrinsic motivations; I have to trust their authenticity; I have to trust that they will follow the path they are called to. None of these things is directly measurable. Some of them may not even be observable.
I have faith in these things, because I think that if a person is listening to the movements inside themselves and is striving to be true to themselves, that they cannot help but become more aware of the humanity of the ‘other’. And in that awareness is the start of compassion and empathy.
If we can start in that place – rather than in trying to proclaim our allegiances – we may find connection and resonance in surprising places. If we can leave the shape of the outcome in the hands of God and commit to being discerning – what emerges may be truly redemptive.