Religious leaders and scholars from various religions in southern Vietnam have emphasized how religious values bring peace and harmony to people and society. Some 600 followers from Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai and Minh Ly Dao attended an interfaith gathering on Oct. 27 at the Pastoral Center in Ho Chi Minh City. The meeting themed “Building Bridges between Culture and Religion” was organized by the Ministry of Interfaith Dialogue Committee of Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese. Also present at the annual event were Emeritus Cardinal John Baptist Pham Minh Man, who established the committee, Bishop Stephane Tri Buu Thien of Can Tho, who is charge of the Vietnamese bishops’ interfaith dialogue and ecumenism, and Auxiliary Bishop Louis Nguyen Anh Tuan. Thuong Van Thanh, a Cao Dai dignitary, highlighted religious influences on social life and culture in Vietnam.
Thanh pointed out that religious followers know how to love, forgive other people and do penance for their wrongdoings, so “religions help people become better and live a good life.” He said religious faiths help remove sadness and despair from people, and give them supernatural strength to overcome challenges and have a happy life. Thanh also warned people against abusing religion to get personal benefits and spreading wrong things. Buddhist Venerable Thich Minh Thanh urged people to do good deeds that show good behavior, love, charity and tolerance towards other people. Venerable Thanh said cultural interference among local religions bring backs harmony and tolerance to followers of religions in the spirit of peaceful dialogue. He praised the late French Father Leopold Michel Cadiere (1869-1955), who promoted peaceful dialogue and inculturation among local people. Father Cadiere wrote 250 research works about Vietnamese history, religions, customs, traditions, linguistics and folklore. He placed the foundation for Vietnamese studies in the 20th century. The missionary of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) served Catholics in Hue Archdiocese for 63 years and died there. He was buried in Xuan Bich Major Seminary in Hue City. Franciscan Father Francis Xavier Nguyen Trong De called on participants to follow the spirit of peace made by St. Francis of Assisi to scatter love and peace around their residences. Father De said St. Francis gave the world new ways of living out faith, new spirits of evangelization and dialogue, and a new sense of faith. In 1219, the founder of the Order of Friars Minor met Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil to put an end to the conflict of the Crusades. The priest said if people have no peace in their soul, they could not bring peace to other people. During the gathering, participants enjoyed an exhibition of 100 books on local faiths and photos on interfaith activities, watched cultural performances and had a vegetarian meal provided by Hoa Hao followers. Religious representatives also said own prayers for harmony, fraternity, happiness, good health, prosperity, peace and common good among religions. Father Francis Xavier Bao Loc, head of the Ministry of Interfaith Dialogue Committee, said the gathering marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the committee, 150th anniversary of the birthday of Father Cadiere, and 800th anniversary of the encounter between St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. His committee held the first such gathering in 2011.
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