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“If dialogue is to be a model for proclaiming the Word, then we need one straightforward disposition: the willingness and ability to listen, to listen intently with the ears of the heart.”

Father John Mansford Prior SVD spoke at the Joint Conference of the Justice, Peace and Care of Creation (JPCC) Asia-Pacific region and the Journées Romaines Dominicaines (JRD)themed “Dialogue as a way of Preaching”, August 12, 2014. The conference was held in Surabaya, Indonesia, August 11-16, 2014.

In Asia, according to Father Prior, “we do not speak of mission or dialogue – following the Western logic of “either-or” – but of mission in dialogue, for dialogue is the mode of mission – following the Asian logic of yin-yang. What is true and beautiful in the other clarifies and deepens what is true and beautiful in one’s own life and tradition.”

Father Prior arrived Indonesia in 1973 when he viewed his vocation as one of giver, enabler and catalyst. “However, the deep faith of the people among whom I lived led to an incessant questioning of my own faith, both as to its form and its depth. I now see the cross-cultural missionary vocation more in terms of an apostolate of listening and understanding through which barriers are broken down, and faith refuses to allow itself to become encapsulated within any particular personal, cultural, denominational or religious frame.”

Responding to the question of a reporter of the Indonesian Dominican-run website, PEN@ Katolik http://penakatolik.com/ about the increasing numbers of radical and fundamentalist groups, Father Prior said, “We have to listen to all voices, angry, cranky, bitter, and disliked voices, and understand well their backgrounds.” At least, added the priest, there should be a way to discuss with them.

The priest who is working in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara province, recalled the period of General Soeharto’s regime when political activity was silenced, the economy and education never developed, and culture was left behind. Thus he asked, “where would they have their self-conception, if not from the only things they have, ethnicity and religion, that cause fanaticism?”(paul c pati)

 

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