Tenrikyo-Christian Dialogue II Addresses “Education, Family, Religion”

“Tenri International Symposium 2002: Tenrikyo-Christian Dialogue II” was held from September 28 to 30 in the Home of the Parent under the joint sponsorship of Tenri University and Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. A sequel to the first Tenrikyo-Christian Dialogue held in Rome in 1998, this symposium involved representatives of the Catholic Church and of Tenrikyo as well as researchers attending in their religiously neutral capacities and provided valuable opportunities for the participants to share their views on families, churches, and religious education not only with one another but also with many others who attended the open sessions in the afternoons. On the last day of the symposium, the participants produced a joint statement (see page 4) that reaffirmed both religions’ “mission towards the world.”

Prefacing the symposium was a pre-session address delivered on the 27th by Archbishop (then Bishop) Michael L. Fitzgerald, then secretary and now president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Speaking on “Religious and Interreligious Education in the Contemporary World,” he observed that, although “religious plurality is not a new phenomenon,” increased mobility has brought different religions into contact with one another more than ever before. He suggested that it might be useful to distinguish between “Religious Instruction” and “Religious Knowledge,” the former meaning to “educate someone in a particular faith” and the latter consisting in providing “knowledge of the various religions of the world” so as to “bring about understanding, but not necessarily commitment.” He added that there is an interreligious dimension to Religious Instruction, which should cultivate openness and respect in relations with religions other than one’s own. Regarding Christians, he said that “a growing realization that the gift of Christian faith is precisely that, a gift, will encourage the ability to see how God is working in the lives of people who do not share this faith.”

Session One, “Religions and Education in the Contemporary World,” saw a keynote address by Dr. Martin Kraatz, former director of the Museum of Religions at the Philipps University of Marburg. He said that if the conditions of contemporary society are seen as reflecting a balance of destructive powers and creative energy, it would be more effective to strengthen the sense of creativity than criticize the sense of destruction. He stressed that “religions claiming to rule over mankind today have much less chance to be heard and accepted than religions that want to serve mankind” and that, although religious truth can be neither proved nor disproved empirically, the “basis of a religion and the source of its liveliness are the faithful individuals, [who] can be the bridge-builder between religious truth and society in general–if they through their lifestyle demonstrate what their decision on accepting the faith in a religious truth has made them be and do.”

Associate Professor Tamio Kinoshita of Tenri University then spoke on the theme “Toward the Vitalization of Education and Family in Modern Society,” stressing the importance of effective and intimate marital and family communication and of “religious communication within the family in which faith in God is involved.” Professor Alba Dini Martino of the Gregorian University used sociological analyses to shed light on Christian perspectives on the modern family and the educational tasks of the family. Her presentation called for a “change of mentality” and emphasized the need to “carry out discernment ‘of all the pluralist values and ideological contradictions.'”

During the afternoon portion of Session One, a large audience listened to a special lecture by psychologist Hayao Kawai, commissioner of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs. Offering psychological insights into human development, he underscored the importance of religious education in the modern Japanese family with special reference to the problem of “isolation”–as distinguished from “independence”–which he said appears to stem from the modern Japanese family’s increasing lack of religiosity, which traditionally was an integral part of family life.

Following this, presentations were made by Professor Terence Kennedy of the Alphonsian Academy and Professor Yoshitsugu Sawai of Tenri University. They addressed the common theme of “Contemporary Issues Concerning the Family and Education” respectively from a Christian and a Tenrikyo point of view. Professor Kennedy drew attention to the Second Vatican Council’s concept of “domestic church,” which he said simultaneously evokes the “ecclesial character of the Christian family and the familial character of the Church.” Professor Sawai said for his part that in order to successfully address the concerns raised about the family and education, it is extremely important for us all to cultivate and nurture the “mind of saving others” by drawing on a sense of joy and gratitude for God’s blessings, which are enabling us to be alive.

Session Two, “Faith Commitment and Religious Education,” began with Oakland Bishop John Cummins reading a paper written by Kyoto Bishop Paul Otsuka on behalf of the author, who was unable to be present. Bishop Otsuka’s paper stressed that the Church, which presents a way of life based on Christ’s Gospel, should educate people in such a way that they would reflect deeply upon their ways of life and make responsible judgments and decisions in accord with their conscience. The next presenter, Head Minister Yoshihiko Shirokihara of Tenrikyo Honshiba Grand Church, said that a church is a place for prayer, for truth-seeking, and for mission, and that these three factors are organically interrelated so as to allow a church to serve as a center for salvation. He also described a number of ways in which Tenrikyo churches are trying to reach out to the communities they serve. Following these presentations, questions were raised concerning the relationship between the Joyous Life and “knots” (difficulties encountered in life), the role of the Sazuke, and views on human ecology. Comments included that Tenrikyo sees the whole universe as the body of God and everything that exists as a gift of God, that a spirit of moderation and humility is of great importance, that the awareness of universal brotherhood and the wish to help others as brothers and sisters ought to be cultivated, and that interreligious dialogue is a contribution to human ecology. In addition, Head Minister Shirokihara demonstrated a part of the service dance to illustrate what it means to “dance the truth,” as taught in Tenrikyo.

The afternoon portion of Session Two featured a keynote address by Professor Michael Pye of the Philipps University of Marburg, who, like Archbishop Fitzgerald, distinguished “religious nurture” (bringing up the young in a specific faith) from religious education (assisting them in developing an understanding of religions in general). As a means of reducing the potential for social and political conflicts and of helping to resolve such conflicts, Professor Pye emphasized the need for an “integrative religious education” that draws on the academic study of religions (rather than confessional theologies) so as to ensure fairness and accuracy and that takes into consideration the “various phases of child development (as ascertained in educational psychology),” as well as the “variety of religions in the world and the particular perspectives of any one society.” He said that such a religious education, if correctly conceived and implemented, could profitably be provided in both secular and religious schools. His address was followed by two presentations. Tenri High School Principal Shigehiko Iburi described the “faith-based education” provided in Tenrikyo schools, whereas the Gregorian University’s Professor Keith Pecklers spoke about how liturgy itself can serve as a teacher.

The panel discussion, which followed, involved four panelists: Bishop Cummins, Tenri University’s Associate Professor Midori Horiuchi, Professor Pecklers, and Principal Iburi. Associate Professor Horiuchi expanded on the principles guiding Tenrikyo schools’ faith-based education described earlier by Principal Iburi. Bishop Cummins, for his part, stressed how Christian education seeks to embrace the whole human family and to be open to dialogue with other religions so that the Church might enhance its insights and its ability to serve the human family. The ensuing discussions highlighted the need for further progress to be made in developing an objective religious education appropriate for pluralistic societies.

Session Three afforded opportunities for the participants to share their views on the “Orientation of Religious Education in the Family.” Tenri’s Professor Yoshinori Sawai talked about how important it is for parents themselves to implement the teachings and set an exemplary model for their children. Vice-Rector Ignatius Sanna of the Pontifical Lateran University–who serves as national chaplain to an ecclesiastical movement concerned with the religious and spiritual formation of university graduates–described adult-oriented religious activities that take account of human dignity and freedom as well as the saving grace of God. The next two contributors, Tenri’s Professor Koji Sato and the Gregorian University’s Professor Jae-suk Lee, spoke respectively about Tenrikyo and Christian religious activities for children, young adults, and families. These four presentations led to lively discussions about husbands and wives, life ethics, and the indigenization of the teachings.

The open session in the afternoon saw a keynote address by Tokyo University’s Professor Susumu Shimazono, followed by presentations by the Gregorian University’s Professor Michael Fuss and Tenri’s Professor Haruyo Horio. Professor Shimazono threw light on the religiosity and spirituality inherent in children as well as the potential of religious formation in the family for unintended repressive dimensions. Professor Fuss described how “Christian families are called to be a sacramental realization of [the] tri-polar relationship of mutual love: loving God, loving one’s neighbor, and thereby loving oneself.” Professor Horio, a clinical psychologist, stressed that the “basis for a stable, well-functioning family is firm psychological ties between husband and wife.”

To wind up the symposium, Tenrikyo Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi delivered a closing address, sharing his reflections on some of the main points made over the course of the symposium and expressing his hope that the mutual ties between the Catholic Church and Tenrikyo “will continue to strengthen further, allowing us to develop our constructive relationship.”

Share this article:

Comments are closed.