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Friday, January 13, 2012

Praying Together?...

Image by aronki via Flickr
Greetings friends and welcome to the new year!

Yes, I did say that I would be back over the next few days after Christmas but that didn't happened. Nonetheless, the year carries on and now we are 2012. It is going to be an interesting one because, once again, we are facing another swirl of doomsday talk about the end of the world and all that goes along with it. It will be interesting because I am going to witness another round of 'shaking-my-head' at the end of it all and, to use a known social media term, ROTFL, when we get pass this year and greeting 2013 instead. It seems we never learnt from past mistakes or that we give too much credence to doom-sayers and quack seers who don't really know what they are talking about or dealing with.

Aside those, closer to home, there is a niggling discomfort and disquiet that came up with the recent article by Chua Mui Hoong, 'Quiet Contemplation on Common Ground', on her recent attendance at a meditation conference organised by the Catholic Church's Archdiocesan Council for Inter-Religious and Ecumenical Dialogue and the World Community for Christian Meditation, which was also supported by the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) of Singapore.

First, was the letter from a Buddhist reader in the Forum section of The Straits Times about Ms Mui Hoong's description that the participants were engaging in a (praying) practice which was both unique to their tradition and common to all faiths, namely a reaching out to God through silence, was a misrepresentation of the Buddhist faith. While the article may seem respectable and informative to the event that had transpired, there were certainly quite a few elements in the article, which are rather questionable. The Buddhist issue is one thing and rightly so because to any practicing Buddhist, they will mention that they do not profess to a God or a Divine Being. Thus, their ultimate goal, even in their meditation is never to or for God. Strictly speaking, they don't really profess a religion but more a way of life.

But perhaps a wider and problematic issue here is concerning our own Catholic view on the following matter: Can we pray together with other faiths, in a situation such as this, at all?

Perhaps an article with the headline, 'No Joint Prayer at Pope's Inter-religious Meeting', and another here, can shed some light on the matter. This article would put before us that the recent meditation event in Singapore is very questionable and the way it was conducted, especially with the presence of the Catholic Church there is somewhat in contradiction to the basis of our own Catholic faith. The Pope himself is very clear about praying in such a setup: we don't (or cannot) pray together.

This event could serve its intentions better when, it best promotes the dialogue of faith sharing but avoid any religious syncretism, or combining of different beliefs and practices. The current Assisi prayer meet would be a better template (thought not perfect) to engage in this meditation event: that we meditate/pray separately and in private areas alloted for each faith.

Perhaps those in the Archdiocesan's Council for Inter-religious and Ecumenical Dialogue be a little more discerning about such matters when dealing with events like this in the future.
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