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Hindu-Catholic Dialogue Explores Education

Another step in creating pragmatic interfaith encounters was taken at Loyola Marymount University as the annual Hindu-Catholic Dialogue was held Saturday, May 15. The forum, which has been held for more than 20 years at various locations, focuses both religious communities on understanding and accommodating the other. Each forum has touched on various aspects of Hindu-Catholic interests and relations, such as ethics, social service and spirituality, and ecological spirituality. This year’s topic was “Teaching Hinduism in Catholic Schools.”

Hindu-Catholic Dialogue“It is important that we learn about and learn from other religions,” said Tracy Tiemeier, assistant professor of theological studies at LMU. “It is not a matter of dealing with far-off people, but with our neighbors who are dealing with the current conditions, just as we are.”

About 60 people gathered for a day of presentations and workshops. Pravrajika Saradeshaprana, of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, said that teaching “a complex and radically different approach to spirituality” can have the result of creating harmony in the greater community. “A better understanding can strengthen the bonds of community and it can also reinforce one’s own spiritual faith and practice,” she said.

Saradeshaprana said she has read the Hindu sections of high school world religion textbooks and not recognized her faith in what she was reading. She said her hope is to get more accurate information about Hinduism to religion classes, leading to discussions of actual spiritual practices, prayer, worship and study. She pointed out that many misconceptions about Hinduism have developed over a century or more, but that better information can resolve those misconceptions.

Tiemeier said, “A truly Catholic institution must take world religions seriously … it can’t ignore the vast diversity of the world.” She said that students who are better informed about religions and the cultural practices of others will more successfully negotiate the world they’ll find themselves in as adults. 

Posted May 18, 2010