Our Origin, Our Goal
One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth. One also is their final goal, God…,” says Nostra Aetate (NA).
Christians all over the world are observing 50th anniversary of the release of a document of the historic Second Vatican Council on October 28, 1965. Nostra Aetate — in Latin, “Our Times” — outlines the stand of the Catholic Church with regard to its relationship with other religions.
In the context of what happened in Paris recently or the terrible war in West Asia on religious grounds, it is indeed relevant to emphasise “our common origin and our final goal — God”. NA acknowledges that various religions expect answers to unsolved human riddles such as, “What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what is sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? …What are death, judgment and retribution after death?” and, “Whence do we come, and where are we going?”
If you have been to the “Light and Sound” at the Red Fort in Delhi, you’ll recall hearing Aurangzeb, after having ruled for 50 years and before his death, ask this very question.
Speaking in glowing terms about the contribution of Hinduism, NA says, “Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus, in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry…”
Referring to Buddhism, it says, “(it) realises the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men… may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain… supreme illumination”. Similarly, it holds in esteem the Muslims, who “adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth…” It then admits that Christianity stems from Judaism and strongly condemns anti-Semitism, practiced by Christians for long.
“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings…”, and instructs its believers “that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognise, preserve and promote the good things… found among these men”, reflects NA.
And finally, its instruction could be applied, particularly in “Our Times” to everyone in the world: “The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion”.
Father Dominic Emmanuel SVD, a founder-member of Parliament of Religion