My experience in Montalban during my apostolate
It was meaningful and interesting to be sent to Montalban for my weekend apostolate. While doing my apostolate in San Isidro Labrador parish, especially in Claret chapel, I learned many lessons such as: to accept suffering for the sake of others, to protest against oppression, to believe in Christ, love, faith, prayer, imagination, and creativity. Personally, in sharing the word of God among his people, visiting the sick, teaching some faith formations, blessing houses of the people gave me strength as a religious missionary. While cooking together as one family, sharing of room together with confreres, going to the mountains for the mass, serving during the mass as an acolyte, giving the communion to the sick opened my heart more for others. This apostolate opens my mind to reflect more upon what is happening in our society today, to reflect upon the meaning of life and how the people understand life through the struggles of everyday.
During this reflection I will try to identify and understand better the mind of the people in Montalban especially during house blessing. I have learned many things in this apostolate as I said above, but my focus will base on my experience during house blessing.
In our society, poverty and oppression among the people are the issues which affect everybody. During the house blessing, I have seen how the people are striving to live: some are suffering physically, others morally and spiritually. Others do not even understand the meaning of life because of many problems in the family. The most of it is financial problem.
However, during my apostolate in Montalban with my CICM brothers, we used to have house blessing every week. This house blessing was organized by Fatima Group of the Claret Chapel under the care of social action of San Isidro Labrador Parish. The members of this group are used to talk with the people ahead of time before we go for our apostolate. It happened one day, the members of Fatima Group went to see the people to prepare themselves for the house blessing the following day. They arrived at one family to tell them that the CICM brothers will come tomorrow for house blessing if they are willing to welcome them. Suddenly, the father of the family stood up by saying: “I am a Muslim, the brothers cannot come here to bless my house, I do not believe in that blessing, go out of my house”. The members of Fatima group did not discuss with him; they left the house kindly. The following day I came with my brothers to bless the houses of the people. When we go for the blessing, the people who are willing to have their house blessed they use to light the Candles in front of their houses. And I was the one who finally blessed the houses wherein the muslin man lives. While passing in front of his house, that Muslim man was looking at me, but he did not say anything. When I started to bless the other houses, the Muslim man came to ask me if I can bless also his house. I went in his house to bless him and his family; I was so happy to go into this house and to talk with them. At the end of blessing he gave also something as contribution. The man was also thankful to me because I accepted to bless his house.
This experience during house blessing was quite meaningful for me, because I could not imagine blessing the house of a Muslim, to discuss and talk with him about faith matters. My mission with this man was not to convert him to become Christian, but to talk with him as one family, to love one another despite our differences. This experience with this Muslim man invited me to reflect little bit on how to live out the call for interreligious dialogue.
Thus, Interreligious dialogue or interfaith dialogue is about people of different faiths coming to a mutual understanding and respect that allows them to live and cooperate with each other despite their differences. The term refers to cooperative and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions who can cooperate in individual and institutional level. Each party remains true to their own beliefs while respecting the right of the other to practice their faith freely. Interreligious dialogue does not force or ask other religions to be converted. It is what happened to me in Montalban during my apostolate, I was oblige not to convince this man to leave Islam, but to do what is good, and to love one another in our relationship as Christian and Muslim.
However, interfaith dialogue is not just words or talk. It includes human interaction and relationships. It can take place between individuals and communities and on many levels. For example, between neighbors, in schools and in our places of work; it can take place in both formal and informal settings. For example, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians live on the same streets; use the same shops, buses and schools, talking about their life in the society. Normal life means that we come into daily contact with each other. Dialogue therefore, is not just something that takes place on an official or academic level only; but it is part of daily life during which different cultural and religious groups interact with each other directly, and where tensions between them are the most tangible. It is an invitation for everybody to do something when you have that opportunity. In our apostolate, in our sharing when we have that chance of being with the people from other religions it is a time that we can discus not only about the word of God, but also about our social and political matter. It is because all the religions are alive in our society, and everybody experiences the same situations in the society.
In additional, dialogue for me is always looking for : Increasing mutual understanding and good relations, Identifying causes of tension among religions; Which means these are often economic, social or political rather than religious; building understanding and confidence to overcome or prevent tensions; breaking down the barriers and stereotypes which lead to distrust, suspicion and bigotry. Therefore, interfaith Dialogue is not about talking away or brushing aside differences. It does not aim at coming to a common belief, a way of converting the other. In dialogue each party remains true to their own faith, a space for arguing, attacking or disproving the beliefs of the other. It is about increasing mutual understanding and trust.
Thus, I discover that our mother Church has still have a big job to look for interreligious dialogue in some countries, and to educate the Catholics how they can deal with other religions because many of Christians are not aware of interreligious dialogue, sometimes it seems as scandal to some Christians when they will see a bishop or a priest talking with Muslim for example. Through my experience, when I was talking with the Muslim where I blessed the house, the children that were with me asked me: why do you talk with him? He is a Muslim. We have to educate our people about interreligious dialogue.
In conclusion, the transformation of the Church is everywhere; we need courage and creativity to transform our Church in a good way. We are all connected each other in the world despite our differences. The people of Montalban are from different provinces here the Philippines that is why we find different kind of religions in this place of Montalban. Our purpose as CICM brother is to preach the Good News to these people, the love of one another despite our differences. My experience during house blessing is significant sign that can help us in our discussion with the people of other religions. Thus, Openness and understanding, and acceptance of one another, and the love of one another can help us to live in harmony in our society despite our differences.
Bro. David TSHIOWA, CICM