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John Harvey D.

Gamas A Reflection on: Dignitatis Humanae

The Beauty of Home For the Catholic Church, to officially declare religious freedom was one of the ultimate balancing acts. Ecclesiastical history tells us that this basic human right was a difficult tightrope to walk on. Maintaining a healthy equilibrium between human freedom and the definitive salvation offered by Christ was really a challenge. The Gospels and the Fathers of the Church had taught that religious liberty is a necessary element of responding to God, nevertheless history attest to methods of coercion that was often employed by overzealous churchmen in evangelization. For instance whenever the Church was faced with persecution, the right to religious freedom was often emphasized but when faced with a deviant thinker or another religion, the uniqueness of Christic salvation was invoked. Dignitatis Humanae was indeed revolutionary. Before the two thousand years of Christian history came to a close the Church was finally able to make a beautiful reconciliation between freedom to search the Truth and the Truth of Christ. The search for the truth, however, must be carried out in a manner that is appropriate to the dignity of the human person and his social nature, namely, by free enquiry with the help of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue. These lines from this Vatican II declaration reminded me of my most favorite teaching subject, AS 311 otherwise known as Philosophies and Religions of Asia. This subject delves into the different faith traditions of Asia, after all, the major world religions came from Asia, including Christianity, of course. This subject allows me to make a philosophical and theological inquiry with my students into the worlds of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism and Islam. It is a very fascinating subject. However there are worries expressed by other people about this subject. Some of my co-faculty told me that the danger was if my students be enticed to be converted to another religion. But actually I never felt this as a danger. This subject is by all means in keeping with human dignity and free inquiry as stated in Dignitatis Humanae. I believe that seeking the Truth is possible if one is not afraid to venture beyond. Honestly, I wondered why a very devout Catholic like me finds it interesting to study other religions. Actually the more I studied other religions the more I became convinced of the uniqueness and Truth of the Christian message of salvation. Hinduism may offer liberation from the Karmic cycle of reincarnation through oneness with the Brahman so as to achieve Moksha. Buddhism may purport detachment from the world so as to evade suffering and become a Buddha. Jainism may practice extreme forms of asceticism and nonviolence so as to detach from the illusions of this world. Taoism may advice people to be spontaneous and natural, so as to allow the Tao to flow freely making them wise immortals. Confucianisms social philosophy may articulate benevolence, gentlemanliness, respect and hierarchy so as to allow Heavens mandate. Shintoism may give the way to the gods by nature worship. Zoroastrianism may perform fire rituals in honor of the One God Ahura Mazda. Islam may give the emphasis of worshiping God alone through the teachings of the Prophet. Sikhism may try to synthesize Islam and Hinduism so as to offer unity to our view of Divine. Yet these religions cannot offer a God hanging on a cross to save a not so worthy humanity. I think that is the WOW in Christianity. I do not mean to malign these religions. These religions are also beautiful expressions of humanitys longing for the Divine, for the Ultimate. They are also reflective of the Truth that Christianity has to offer as stated in another Vatican II Declaration, Nostra Aetate. My point here is what Christ has to offer through Christianity. Jesus offered himself through his exemplary life, revolutionary teaching of love, humiliating death and glorious resurrection. Christianity is unique for it is the only religion which presents a God on a humiliating state. Probably that explains why Christianity has not been very widespread in Asia. The crucifix is not appealing to a Hindu or a Chinese whose gods or God is omnipotent, seated on thrones and dressed in splendor. Jesus is of course victorious and being a person of the Trinity hence omnipotent but that never prevented him to allow himself to be humbled down helplessly on the cross. This act of humility made it clear to me the Love of God for all humanity. God is willing to sacrifice his majesty just for out sakethis is the TRUTH. I found the Truth of Christianity not because I was sheltered from all other divergent religions and philosophies (including atheism and agnosticism). Instead of being confused and disoriented I was able to find the Truth because I was open to it and indeed it made me realize the beauty of Home. Traveling abroad makes one realize the beauty of ones native land that is also in the case of religion. As I always say in my Asian Philosophies and Religions class We study these religions so that we may be able to appreciate better our religion - Christianity. Religious freedom is a necessity because the Truth of Christ is free.