Practising Inter-religious Dialogue with Classical Confucian Resources
Dr. Edmond EH
Head of the Department of Philosophy
University of Saint Joseph, Macau
In February 2019 Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb published the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. As a joint declaration, the document is immensely significant as an inter-religious statement since it represents the authoritative teachings of the Catholic tradition of Christianity and the Sunni tradition of Islam. They state:
In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of
the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East
and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation
as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard
(Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb 2019, 2-3).
This paper is an attempt to do practical theology in inter-faith settings within the context of China. Based on the framework found in the Document on Human Fraternity, it proposes (1) a path to a culture of dialogue by identifying the appropriate resources found in classical Confucianism that can be used to promote (2) a code of conduct of mutual co-operation and (3) the method and standard of reciprocal understanding with the Catholic Church and Al-Azhar.
In the Analects, goodness (ren 仁) refers to the highest of Confucian virtues. It is an overarching virtue of a perfected human being and it includes qualities as empathetic understanding (shu 恕) or benevolence (hui 惠). The virtue of ren contains mutuality and ‘goodness’ already means mutual goodness. This Confucian virtue serves to support the conduct of mutual co-operation in inter-religious dialogue.
The Confucian virtue of understanding (shu 恕) reflects an ability to show sympathy by putting oneself imaginatively in another’s place. One who has the virtue of shu exercises restraint in the practice of the Confucian Golden Rule: “what you do not wish yourself, do not do unto others” (jisuobuyu wushiyuren 己所不欲，勿施於人). In the Analects, ‘understanding’ already includes the dimension of reciprocity. This Confucian virtue serves to support the method of reciprocal understanding in inter-religious dialogue.
Edmond Eh is Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Saint Joseph, Macau. He teaches systematic philosophy in the Bachelor of Christian Studies programme and comparative philosophy in the Master of Philosophy programme at the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy. He obtained the doctorate in Philosophy and Religious Studies from the University of Macau. He researches in comparative philosophy, especially in the Aristotelian and Confucian traditions. Some of his work can be found in The Journal of the Macau Ricci Institute and Orientis Aura: Macau Perspectives in Religious Studies.