The “JournéesRomaines” started in 1956, a few years before Vatican II, on the initiative of fr Georges Anawati, OP, and some White Fathers who were willing to promote within the Catholic Church a better understanding of Islam and an awareness of the importance of inter-religious dialogue. These meetings took place in Rome ‘til the mid-1990s.
At the General Chapter of Madonna dall’Arco (1974), the Dominican Order decided to create within the curia of the Order a special office called Secrétariat pour l’Islam, in charge of coordinating the work of the friars working in Muslim countries. This was one of the fruits of the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate (1965). Fr. Emilio Panella was chosen to animate this Secretariat in the Curia of the Order, under the responsibility of the socius for apostolic life. One of his first initiatives was to organize, immediately after the JournéesRomaines of 1977, a first meeting of what would later be called “JournéesRomainesDominicaines“. Fr. Georges Anawati, OP became one of the main animators of these meetings, which took place in Grottaferrata, near Rome, in 1977, 1981, 1985, 1989, under the responsibility of fr. Emilio Platti, OP.
From 20 to 25 friars and a few Dominican sisters attended these meetings in a very fraternal atmosphere. Slowly, though, the friar in charge of the organization, fr Emilio Platti, found it difficult to mobilize new participants, especially young friars. Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, as Master of the Order, decided then in 1992 to give the direct responsibility of organizing the JournéesRomainesDomicaines to the socius for apostolic life, fr Jean Jacques Pérennès, OP. He did so, with the assumption that a permanent presence in the Curia would help to integrate new participants and give more publicity within the Order. The socius organized an extended survey of the apostolic commitments of the Order in the Muslim countries. This allowed us to organize, a few years later, an extended meeting of the JournéesRomainesDominicaines,with better participation. Around 70 friars and sisters took part in the meeting in 1995, which was held at the Angelicum. For the occasion, two very well-known Dominican speakers, both with a broad experience, were invited: fr.Oshida from Japan and fr. Serge de Beaureceuil from Afghanistan. More sisters attended the meeting and more countries were represented. For the first time, the meeting was held in French and English, with simultaneous translation.
The gathering for the JournéesRomainesDomicaines, scheduled for every 4 years, had to be canceled in 1999, for practical reasons, but a good group attended again in both 2001 and 2005, thanks to the commitment of frYvonPomerleau and Chrys McVey, successive socii for the apostolic life. An 8th meeting took place in Rome in 2009, organized by a team of friars and sisters, appointed by the Master of the Order, with the name Commission for Dialogue with Islam. Thiscommission worked under the responsibility of the socius for apostolic life, fr Prakash Lohale and the socius for intellectual life, frMarcioCouto.
Encouraging participation is still a challenge, though some progress has been made, partly via networking on Internet. During the last meetings, we paid more attention to theological reflection, but more can still be done in this direction. Even with its limits, the JournéesRomainesDominaines continues to be a great experience of fraternal sharing, and is considered quite useful by those who attend.
New elements in today’s context make our commitment to interreligious dialogue even more important than before: the growth of violence committed in the name of religion that affects the Christians in several countries, and inappropriate activism of some evangelical groups. The importance of interreligious dialogue has been affirmed by all our last General chapters (ACG 1986 Avila #22, ACG 2007 Bogotá #82, ACG 2010 Rome #161.) The mission of the Order requires a new engagement in this crucial field: inter-cultural debate, interreligious dialogue, interfaith works and finally, peace education in a context of war and violence.
JourneésRomainesDominicaines (JRD) will become Journeés Indonesia Dominicaines (JID) ACG 2010 Rome #165
A periodic gathering in Rome of Dominicans around the world who work in interreligious dialogue has held approximately every four years. The last JRD was held in September 2009 for the promotion and support of the involvement of brothers and sisters in dialogue with Islam. During the past the focus has often been on Islam in Europe. At the last JRD there was a desire to know and experience Islam and other religions of the East in another culture and country, and so we are going to move the venue next time from Rome to Indonesia.
Why Indonesia ? The need to open ourselves to other religions was strongly emphasized in the last meeting. So Asia the cradle of many religions is the first choice. Indonesia being the largest Muslim country, will be an experience to see how Islam is practised and lived from a non-European perspective . The idea of shifting the JRD to Indonesia is done with a view to see how our brothers and sisters live in a Muslim country and how Islam views us in a country where they are in the majority.
The regional promoter for Justice and Peace of the Asia Pacific region brother Andreas Kurniawan, OP from Indonesia and The Center of Research and Inter-religious Dialogue (CRID), Pontianak, Indonesia are happy to host the next JID, along with the Justice and Peace promoters of the region (whose theme for the meeting is also interreligious dialogue). Thanks to the dynamism and the proposal of the Indonesian brothers, the Journeés Indonesia Dominicaines will be held in August 2014 in Indonesia. In order to organize this meeting, a small committee had been formed in Surabaya, January 2013.
The General Chapter of Trogir, Croatia 2013 confirmed this decision about the next JourneesRomainesDominicaines refer ACG # 119 : (Gratulatio) We commend the decision to transfer the JournéesRomainesDominicaines, (JRD) to Indonesia in 2014 and we encourage the proposed joint meeting with the Regional Promoters of Justice and Peace of the Asia – Pacific region on the same theme of Inter-Religious Dialogue.
We understand the great difficulty of hosting two international meetings considering that there are very few brothers in Indonesia. We are convinced of the practicality of having a joint meeting while at the same time respecting the particular thrust of each group. The increasing violence that we find in Asia linked with people who have deeply religious sentiments is both a concern for peace promoters and promoters of dialogue.
The agenda for JID 2014 would be: (1) discussing the encouragement and formation of brothers and sisters for dialogue (2) planning study of the theological implications of dialogue for us as Dominicans and (3) Peace building in a context of conflict, war, and violence. 4) Dialogue with traditional religions.
Education as a Starting point
The present engagement of the Order in inter-religious dialogue seems to encourage amore regional impact of an intellectual kind. We think that these activities and projectscould offer more practical results if there were a development of a new inter-religiousdialogue mentality:
- A formation towards understanding Islam and Inter-religious dialogue must be offeredto the brothers living in each region: viz, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The ideathat emerged is to have regional formation. Some of the brothers engaged in this areaof work in Cairo, Istanbul, Pakistan, Indonesia and other places could be available forgiving sessions and courses to a regional group (in Africa, Asia, Indonesia).
- In creating a more effective regional impact, the brothers may need to work in smallteams of research in these same fields. At the present time, it is not really useful tocreate a big think-tank of brothers or sisters. On the contrary, a small thematic and/orregional team could offer to the entire Order some practical and useful results.
- c) According to the preceding principles, we may especially focus on practical projectsfor the near future: An online course (English and French) on Islam and inter-religious dialogue in collaboration with DOMUNI. In this way, we can rely on our brothers/sistersworking in different fields and entities.
Our hope is to invite young sisters, brothers and lay Dominicans involved in inter-religious dialogue for JID 2014. We would like to invite members of the Dominican family from Africa, involved in traditional religions. We hope to have a gathering of around 80 to 100 participants for this historic event in the Asia-Pacific region.
Prakash Anthony Lohale OP,
Socius for Apostolic Life