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BAHIA ECUMENICAL MEETING STIMULATES DIALOGUE AND INTER-RELIGIOUS COEXISTENCE

Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue; fraternal communion between devotees from different forms and expressions of belief; engagement in political and social issues; and the promotion of inclusive public policies, were the themes of the “Bahia Ecumenical Meeting – Diversities in Coexistence: Ecumenical Hope”, promoted by the Bahia Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches (Conselho Ecumênico Baiano de Igrejas Cristãs: CEBIC).

The event took place in September at the Dom Amando Retirement Home in Salvador.  The meeting created an arena for collaboration and coexistence, with an exchange of experiences and mutual enrichment based on the different expressions of faith present.

Given the growth of intolerance and fundamentalism that has taken over our society, phenomena which are increasingly exacerbated, CESE was not only present, but also supported the initiative.  For Sonia Mota, CESE’s Executive Director, it is essential that, as an ecumenical organization, CESE supports and promotes coexistence between people with different beliefs; “In the case of the Bahia Ecumenical Meeting, the theme says everything. In times of intolerance,  it is essential for CESE to support and promote arenas of dialogue for which the theme is respect in diversity”.

Alongside Sonia, Romi Bencke, the General Secretary of the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (Conselho Nacional de Igrejas Cristãs do Brasil: CONIC) noted a context in which much of this intolerance comes from within religious communities: “I am specifically thinking of the [problems faced by] people in the Candomblé worship houses, of women, of the LGBT population, the black population.  We know there is a great deal of sexism, a lot of racism and disrespect of religions.”

A range of methodologies were used in order to reflect on intolerance, respect people’s right to be and to exist and towards the construction of fair and inclusive relationships; these included talks, playful moments, round table discussions, group work, experience exchanges and celebratory moments.

Based on all these experiences and discussions, the idea is that, on returning to their community of origin, each participant in the Bahia Ecumenical Meeting will disseminate the processes and values addressed in these activities.

For Romi, the expectation is of an assumed commitment, which may directly impact on the ways in which the communities experience their Christian witness, to a greater acceptance of diversity: “The ecumenical meeting, as well as promoting coexistence between different religions, also commits and challenges us to take this experience of coexistence back to the places from which we come, breaking down prejudice”.

 

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