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The Good News in a Fundamentalist Pakistan

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March 22, 2016

prakash bookREFLECTION - We are accustomed to think of mission and dialogue as alternative realities if not opposed, but the announcement of the Gospel is truly unthinkable without the willingness to dialogue. Not only is it unrealistic to expect that the "good news" is received by those we feel are unworthy to offer us a word of wisdom, but also without listening to each other, how can you claim that the spoken word has weight in the hearts and minds of the interlocutor? "The Church does dialogue," declared Paul VI more than fifty years ago and this cordial dialogue with humanity has never ceased, despite moments of fatigue and frost.

This is evident in the rich volume, Dialogue as Mission…, in which the writings of Chrys McVey are collected. He was a Dominican priest who lived and worked for over forty years in Pakistan. He arrived in 1961, on the eve of the opening of Vatican II and he carried out his mission until 2002, at the sunset of the pontificate of John Paul II: the duration of an entire era in the Church. Yet today to revisit those pages, written at a different time and situation in a country steeped in Islam still touches the heart of the contemporary debate on interreligious dialogue. It expresses the awareness of the need to "move out of our comfort zone", the ability to grasp diversity as "creative" opportunities, dissimilarity as openness to reconciliation and the true "heart of the mission". These are themes that have not ceased to be confronted today after at least fifteen years in which more or less concerned voices have continued and continue to want to implicate religions - and in particular Islam - in conflicts that have very different roots and purposes.

Moreover Fr McVey, who was coincidentally in California on September 11, 2001, had returned four months later to Pakistan and back to his normal life, in contact with the people with whom he had shared decades of life and dialogue, the tragic answer to that terrifying event when the weapons had appeared the only possible reply to the horror. His experience as a missionary enabled him to ask himself in clear conscious, "what part of Christians responds most appropriately" not to an act of unprecedented barbarism but to "a changed world." Yes, because the situation had changed, the atmosphere was upset and what Fr Chrys had called "a place called peace" now was the crucible of suffering, of murky plots and distrust of all towards all. This is the opposite of dialogue and also of the mission. Yet if barbarism had not overwhelmed mankind, if a Pakistani girl had overcome a deadly ambush and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it is all thanks to men and women who have hoped and continued to hope against hope, seeing dialogue as their specific mission and thinking of others as partners and not as potential enemies.

Review of the book, “Dialogue as Mission: Remembering Chrys McVey,OP” by Enzo Bianchi

Enzo Bianchi is the founder of the Community of Bose, a monastic community established in the north of Italy, since 1965 and today counting over 80 brothers and sisters, of various Christian traditions. He is also founder of Qiqajon Ed. publishing house, and recognized as a progressive catholic opinion leader. He was appointed by Benedict XVI as Secretary General for the Synod on New Evangelization in 2012 and by Pope Francis as Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians. He has authored over 20 books, published by major Italian publishers and acknowledged in the headlines of major Italian newspapers.

Originally published in Italian in La Stampa, March 5, 2016

You can find copies of the book Dialogue as Mission on the following sites; New Priory Press, Amazon, TokoroHaniKotolik and Nerbini in Italian.

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