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Religions at the Service of Universal Brotherhood (ODS17) EN

by | Nov 13, 2020 | Partners | 0 comments


Religions at the Service of Universal Brotherhood (ODS17)

Josep M. Abella, cmf

Bishop of Fukuoka (Japan)

He was Superior General of the Claretian Missionaries (2003-2015)

I have always been impressed by the words of Paul VI in the encyclical “Populorum Progressio”. In the face of the realities of poverty, marginalization, and violence present in so many parts of the world, the Pope writes in number 3 of the encyclical: “The Church is shaken by this crisis of anguish, and calls upon all to respond with love to the call of their brothers and sisters. This shudder is at the root of the commitment of religions to the service of peace, justice, and universal brotherhood. 


I remember the visit I had the opportunity to make to the extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, in Poland. They leave no one indifferent. While I was visiting the different pavilions, in the face of that history of horrors, the question that many must have asked themselves while visiting those death camps came to my mind: where was God when all this was happening? One’s faith is put to the test and some certainties that had been instilled in us are questioned. However, if we reflect more deeply, we realize that this is not the question. The real question is: where had we thrown away and abandoned that heart with the capacity to suffer in the face of other people’s pain and to rebel in the face of injustice and violence? God has given it to us to let us be guided by it. Faith purifies our images of God and does not allow us to burden God with the responsibilities we must assume. The “shudder” of which Paul VI spoke raises questions and sets in motion the search for answers. We cannot remain indifferent.


The journey of faith and religious experience confronts us with these fundamental questions and guides us in the search for answers that orient our thinking and our behavior toward the joyful and difficult task of writing human history in a language of brotherhood, peace, and justice for all. A healthy religious experience humanizes us and makes us capable of this task.

This is what Jesus has taught us. It is enough to look at the Gospel to understand where a profound experience of God leads. It places us inevitably before others and before the reality of this world which, for Christians, is not a property that can be done what one wants, but a gift that must be cared for and shared among all. Pope Francis has expressed this beautifully in number 281 of the encyclical “Fratelli tutti”: “God does not look with his eyes, God looks with his heart”. Faith in this God leads us along this same path. Compassion” becomes, in this case, the fundamental category of our way of seeing reality and relating to it.


What we say about the Christian faith, we can also say about other religious traditions. The new awareness of the need for dialogue among the various religious traditions and for urgent collaboration among them in the service of humanity is a basis on which concrete projects can and must be born that will help to build a new fraternity among individuals and peoples. This attitude of dialogue outside the spheres of power is essential for building today an inclusive human universality and from the bottom up, from the poorest and most marginalized. After the French Revolution, there have been great social efforts to grow in freedom and equality – although often without fruit – but the great untapped dimension is still fraternity.

Intercultural and interreligious dialogue is as exciting as it is difficult. Dialogue with other religious traditions reveals new ways of asking fundamental questions of meaning and allows us to glimpse the beauty of the answers that have been given throughout human history. The experience of universal brotherhood is broadened and strengthened and, at the same time, the experience of God is deepened. From this arises a strong desire to make this brotherhood a reality in our world; a desire that, translated into concrete actions and projects, will contribute to advancing peace among peoples and will be an important contribution to achieving the “objectives of sustainable development” (ODS) that the United Nations has determined for the coming years.


Josep M. Abella, cmf

Bishop of Fukuoka (Japan)

He was Superior General of the Claretian Missionaries (2003-2015)


Translated with (free version)


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