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First Christian-Confucian dialogue initiated by WCC begins in Seoul

First Christian-Confucian dialogue initiated by WCC begins in Seoul

First Christian-Confucian dialogue, Seoul, 27 October 2017,©WCC

30 October 2017

For the first time in its history, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has initiated a formal dialogue with Confucians. Organised in collaboration with the Council for World Mission and the Korea Forum for Science and Life and with the support of the National Council of Churches in Korea, the Sungkyunkwan University, the City of Andong and the Korea Foundation for Culture and Ethics, the dialogue commenced on 27 October with an interreligious consultation on Christian-Confucian relations in Seoul.

Prof. Ioan Sauca, WCC deputy general secretary and director of the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, in his inaugural remarks during the beginning of the theological dialogue, said: “For the first time the WCC has been directly involved in initiating and organising a Christian-Confucian dialogue. Today is a new beginning that we embrace with an openness of mind and heart.”

Emphasising how there is a significant number of WCC member churches in East Asia and North East Asia “for whom the encounter with Confucianism is part of the everyday dialogue of life” Sauca expressed the hope that this initiative would “help engage and explore questions which are at the heart of how Christians understand the ‘self’ and engage with the ‘other’ – the question of  identity as well as interrelationships.”

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, sent his greetings on this historic occasion. Pointing out how “a culture of indifference and greed has engulfed human relationships by tarnishing reciprocity and fraternity,” Cardinal Tauran said. “We need a new and universal solidarity as well as a new dialogue to shape our future.”

He added: “We are convinced that things can be changed because Confucius and Jesus as well as their true followers have done so in the course of human history. Today, it is up to us to rediscover our respective spiritual treasures in order to bring a new hope to our world.”

Prof. Sang Chang, Asia president of the WCC, in her greetings expressed joy that this dialogue was taking place on Korean soil. Pointing out the importance of such dialogue in the midst of the various attempts towards reconciliation in the Korean peninsula, Chang said: “A dialogue between Comfucianism and Christianity is critical in understanding Christianity in Korea. I find it meaningful that the theme of our times - justice and peace- will be discussed through the dialogue and consultation between the two religions”

The distinctiveness of this Christian-Confucian dialogue lies in its multi-modal approach whereby theological discernment and experiential engagement are integrated as inevitable parts of interreligious dialogue. Organisers of this dialogue, Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar, programme executive for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation with the WCC and Prof. Heup Young Kim, president of the Korea Forum for Science and Life, have sought to overcome the temptation of following a monolithic approach to dialogue. “Dialogue is never merely talking the talk, it also involves walking the walk of lived experience – walking in the shoes of the other,” they concurred.

Following the “dialogue of theological encounter” in Seoul from the 27-28 October, Christian participants moved to a “dialogue of lived experience” in the important Confucian province of Andong. Here they will experience the lived reality of traditional Confucian life as guests of the direct descendants of Confucian clans in their ancestral houses from 29-31 October.

“This experience will re-root our dialogue in an ethos of hospitality,” said Rajkumar and Kim. “By learning to be both guests and hosts we will learn the importance of being both generous and gracious at the dialogue tables. We are confident that this offering and receiving of hospitality will be an important first step in building mutual trust and respect. Mutual hospitality places the pilgrimage of dialogue on a firm footing as we see to walk the talk of offering hope and healing to our world today.”


Strengthening interreligious trust and respect