Sustaining interreligious dialogue in a persuasive manner has been a pressing need of the time. Examining the trends of interreligious dialogue requires continuous review, learning, and reflection. Hence, Caritas Sri Lanka in consultation with the Secretariat of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue convened a lecture and experts’ discussion, on 23rd January 2022, on the theme: “Revitalization of Interreligious Dialogue in the light of Encyclicals Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti”

The guest lecturer – Msgr. Indunil Janakaratne commenced his lecture by defining interreligious dialogue in the light of the Church’s mission. He underlined that the new directions of interreligious dialogue are determined by the changes in the socio-economic sphere that inevitably change the context of the Church’s mission in the century.

Msgr. Indunil referred to two trendsetters of interreligious dialogue in Sri Lanka: Catholic Bishop, Leo Nanayakkara (1917-1982) and Methodist theologian, Rev. Dr. Lynn Alton de Silva (1919-1982). These two forerunners, Msgr. Indunil underlined, could effectively adopt contextual theological and missiological approaches to dialogue because they were first inspired by the teachings of ‘human fraternity’.

Inspiration emanates first from ‘learning’, ‘internalizing’, and ‘reflection’. Approaches adopted by the forerunners (the trendsetters of interreligious dialogue) are a bold expression of internalization of the theology of dialogue. Hence, the action plans of the two encyclicals particularly aim at a process of educating individuals for universal solidarity and welcoming societies. The common starting point of all religious reflection is the human person, the meaning of life, and the ultimate mystery beyond human explanation. The different answers given to these problems in various religions make us enter into interreligious dialogue.

Thanking Msgr. Indunil for his inspirational lecture, Fr. Mahendra Gunethileke – the National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka inquired about the strategies whereby the teachings of the two encyclicals could be translated to action. In response, Msgr. Indunil, reiterated that the education of teachings of two encyclicals lay the foundation for a change of actions which is the ultimate expression of ‘internalization’.

Referring to various informal education programs of Caritas – Sri Lanka, Mr. Frido Fernando mentioned that the training modules, especially the ones used for youth education programs, can further be enriched by the teachings of the two encyclicals.

Fr. Lawrence Ramanayaka – Director, Seth Sarana Caritas Colombo inquired about the opportunities and resources available at the Secretariat for Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. In response, Msgr. Indunil, provided information about the resources that can be accessed online. He also mentioned that he looks forward to connecting academics with clergy and those who are interested in the subject.

Referring to the inspirational writings of Bishop Nanayakkara as well as the life of Rev. Fr. Michael Rodrigo, Fr. Desmond Perera – Caritas SETIK Kandy mentioned that the trends initiated by the ‘forerunners of dialogue’ are not adequately taken forward in their spirit. He also highlighted that these trendsetters adopted a lifestyle of effective dialogue through their inspirational writings as well as their effective encounter with individuals of various religions and cultures. In response, Msgr. Indunil suggested commemoration of these two forerunners since the year 2022 marks their 40th death anniversary. Caritas Sri Lanka looks forward to taking ‘the mission of dialogue’ across various religions and cultures.