See below for useful resources and links on other religions
Jesus asks today as he asked his disciples: Who is my neighbour? In many places in East Anglia today, our neighbour is a Muslim or Jew, a Sikh, Hindu or Buddhist, or someone who adheres to another non-Christian religion.
Each Christian is called by Jesus to love our neighbour as ourself. Not just to tolerate them, not just to let them co-exist in peace, but to love them and care for them and reach out to them in solidarity and friendship.
Forty years on
Why do Catholics now look at people of other religions as friends and neighbours rather than infidels needing a crusade?
Forty years ago this year, on 28th October 1965, the Second Vatican Council issued its Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (usually known by the first two words of its Latin text, Nostra Aetate).
This document developed what had already been said in the previous years Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium, art. 16). Although we want every single human being to know and accept the Good News of Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, we also recognise that Gods saving work is mysteriously present in all kinds of ways, and that those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the People of God. Special mention is given first to the Jews: this people remains most dear to God. The Council goes on to reminds us that the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, and gives first place among these to the Muslims who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God And it goes on to teach: Nor is God himself far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is he who gives to all people life and breath and every other gift, and who as Saviour will that all people be saved.
The key document of Catholic teaching on other religions is the decree Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council. The full text can be found on the Vatican website:
Peace through Knowledge
Christians are called to reach out in friendship to our non-Christian neighbours, and to resist any attempts to foment division and hatred in our society.
There are various things we can do to grow together in peace with our Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindi, Buddhist and other neighbours:
Get to know each other in a personal way, simply as fellow human beings. Do we talk to them at the bus stop, on the train, at the check-out, wherever we are? People of other faiths can feel rejected simply by the wall of silence and suspicion that often greets them. This is particularly true of Muslims at the moment.
Personal contact is the strongest bridge we can build. Knowing a person is more important than knowing about a person, although they cannot be separated. Friendship overcomes prejudice and fear of any kind. This should include not just individuals, but communities: how can your parish community reach out in friendship to a local community of another religion at their local synagogue, mosque or temple? Ideally such friendship should be public, as a visible sign to the wider community.
Learn about each others faith, listening to each other in love, speaking the truth in love, and accepting in love that others do not agree with us. Knowing about each other should lead us to mutual respect and reverence. It does not mean pretending that we agree on most things, or toning down our own central beliefs as Catholics. Respecting anothers faith does not mean watering down or compromising our own. Not does it mean an insensitive attempt to belittle the others religion, or impose our own. It has to be said that sometimes offers of friendship are greeted by people using the opportunity to push their own religion: Catholics used to do that sometimes, and now others try it with us. Friendship doesnt work like that! When we come together, we need to be able to relax together, and not worry that the other person is really there on a mini crusade!
Such dialogue of words, learning about each other, is important, but dialogue of action is also vital. There is so much that we can do together for the good of our society, working for the poor and homeless, the housebound, our young people, refugees and asylum seekers, human rights, supporting marriage and family life.
Christian-Muslim Forum: http://www.christianmuslimforum.org/
Council of Christians and Jews: http://www.ccj.org.uk
BBC Religion & Ethics pages: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/
Interfaith Calendar: http://www.interfaithcalendar.org