[ACNS] An international gathering of Anglicans, Lutherans and Buddhists took place in January in Myanmar – and a joint statement has now been issued which sets out the aim of future joint collaboration on projects of common concern; intentional fostering of Christian Buddhist dialogue at the leadership and grassroots levels; and greater engagement between Buddhist and Christian academic and religious institutions.
The statement expressed the hope that the consultation will inspire Buddhists and Christians in other contexts to engage in the process of meeting and forming friendships: “Over the course of the four days we gained knowledge and understanding of each other’s contexts, practices and convictions. Our experience of listening to and learning from each other was enriched by the sharing of expertise and experience through academic presentations, stories and conversations.”
It was the first international Anglican Communion meeting ever to be held in Myanmar. It was initiated by the Anglican Interfaith Network, NIFCON, and the World Council of Churches was a key partner in the consultation. Representatives from more than six Asian countries took part, including Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, India and Sri Lanka. The consultation was attended by Christians from the Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Roman Catholic traditions, and Buddhists from the Theravada and Mahayana traditions.
Two key scriptures were jointly reflected on and informed the discussions:
“Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is an eternal law.”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”
“Our experience in Myanmar has taught us that interreligious dialogue cannot ignore issues of politics, ethnicity and culture,” the statement said. “In a world where migration and its associated fear of the ‘other’ pose threats for hospitable and harmonious living, we were reminded that both Buddhism and Christianity inspire us to care for the stranger in our midst.”
Myanmar is a majority-Buddhist country but has a strong Christian tradition, with approximately 60,000 Anglicans and 26,000 Lutherans. The consultation took place at a time of ongoing political transition in Myanmar following 60 years of turbulence.
The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, took part in the gathering. “I am encouraged by this joint consultation with the Lutheran Church; the partnership between the Lutheran World Federation and the Anglican Church in Myanmar is a model for other parts of the Communion,” he said. “It was my first direct encounter with Buddhism. There are a lot of subtleties in Buddhism.
“I would like to encourage the Christian minority there to keep the identity of being a follower of Jesus Christ amidst the prevalence of another religion – that has a lot of good things to teach us.”
A formal agreed statement was issued at the end of the consultation.