In the Catholic Church, the beginning of inter-religious dialogue is to be traced to “the Second Vatican Council” (1962-1965) especially with the Council Degree “Nostra Aetate” by which Catholics are encouraged to have positive relationships with the followers of the various religions particularly with the Jews and the Moslems, who are followers of the other monotheistic religions. The Council document makes reference also to the Hindus, the Buddhists, and the other religions. Both the Muslims and the Jews adore, acknowledge, and worship the same one God, as we Christians do. Moreover, in the post-Vatican II documents, the Church acknowledges the goods found in all other religions.

This opened a new horizon for the whole world and changed the attitude of the Catholic Church towards the other religions. It also changed for the better the relationship between the religions of the world. The followers of the different religions rather than ignore each other or persecute each other, now started to have a relationship of dialogue, friendship, respect, and collaboration. With this Council document, there was a sigh of relief not only among Catholics but also among the other Christians and the followers of the world religions. When the Second Vatican Council was over the Catholic Church soon started to make contacts with the followers of the other religions. There was a very good response on all sides. It was like “tasting the waters” as we say. It was a timid initiative that lasted about twenty years until “the World Day of Prayer for Peace” was held in Assisi on 27th October 1986.

We can say that inter-religious dialogue on a large scale and in practice started after the World Day of Prayer for Peace to which Pope John Paul II invited the representatives of the world religions to pray for peace in Assisi.

After this historic event, people started to talk about “inter-religious dialogue” and to have dialogue. In Assisi, the concept of inter-religious dialogue came out into the light. It was not simply confined to a document any longer but it became a practice. After the meeting in Assisi inter-religious dialogue spread like wildfire all over the world. Many inter-religious talks and conferences were organized, and still are, in different parts of the world.

The meeting in Assisi is very significant for Franciscans since Assisi is the place associated with the Franciscan Family. St Francis was a man of peace and acknowledged the need for religions to collaborate if peace is to be achieved. Hence, in our quest for inter-religious dialogue, we stand as champions and pioneers of this noble task. We acknowledge the importance of not only collaborating with other religions but of also respecting and making effort to know more about other religions to remove presumptions. We collaborate in faith activities and in activities that build human dignity, the dignity of creation, and peace and justice advocacy.