- Interreligious Friendship after Nostra Aetate by James L. Fredericks and Tracy Sayuki Tiemeier
This book commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican ii’s important declaration Nostra Aetate. The document marked a paradigmatic about-face in the Catholic Church’s relations with other religions. Writing in the introduction about its historical context, Fredericks concludes, ‘‘Nostra Aetate would not have been possible were it not for interreligious friendships’’ (5). This provides the basis for this book of sixteen essays, in which the authors recount the influence of interreligious friendships in their lives. Contributions are mostly by Catholic scholars, and two are co-authored by interreligious friends. One should not presume that everyone in this volume has the same understanding of friendship, whether ‘‘egalitarian or somewhat asymmetrical’’ (219). Still, the personal approach makes it a refreshing read and raises interesting questions of methodology.
The first four essays recount friendships between Catholics and Jews, although one essay overlaps with other examples. In all these essays the issues of reckoning with the painful historical fact of the Holocaust and the ongoing theological history of supersessionism persist.
Mary C. Boys tells of her friendship with Sarah Lee, a Jewish friend, and their collaboration over the years on interreligious initiatives. John Cavadini speaks about his mentorship in an interreligious encounter with a senior colleague at Notre Dame, Michael Signer. Elena Procario-Foley relates her friendship with William Donat, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor who was committed with her to educating the youth about the events. Procario-Foley highlights how a history of Christian anti-Semitism contributed indirectly to the Holocaust (31). In his account of his years in the Holy Land, David Burrell [End Page 287] speaks of his dialogue with both Jews and Muslims. He concludes that the word dialogue does not capture the deep relationships that are formed in interreligious encounters (57).
The next three essays tell of friendships between Catholics and Muslims.
Marian Farina and Masarrat Khan met during the former’s teaching ministry in Bangladesh. Each reflect on their friendship. Khan’s mention of shokhi (a kind of soulmate) suggests that her context gives cultural permission for deep friendships between women more readily than that of Western approaches.
Rita George-Tvrtkovic speaks with sincerity about her relationship with her mother-in-law, a Bosnian Muslim, that provides ‘‘spiritual kinship.’’ She suggests that ‘‘kinship’’ might be more fitting than friendship, given a common relationship of Christians and Muslims as children of God (82). Drawing on his experience with an Iraqi Muslim, Bradley Malkovsky focuses on the initial common ground for interreligious dialogue, i.e., genuine religion as opposed to differing doctrines.
Three essays pertain to Hindu-Christian friendships. Frank Clooney describes the delicate balance that comparative theologians sometime face in navigating the friendships with members of the traditions they study and with other members in the guild. Reid Locklin recounts the friendship with his Indian guru and expresses how friendships can persist beyond time and space. Tracy Sayuki Teimeier and Mughda Yeolekar speak of their common meeting ground as mothers raising children in a pluralistic context.
In the essays pertaining to Buddhism, Karen Enriquez reflects on her friendship with her mentor John Makransky. James L. Fredericks republishes his important essay documenting his ‘‘spiritual friendship’’ with Masao Abe, a colleague of the late D.T. Suzuki and fellow pioneer in Christian-Buddhist dialogue. In a spirit of respectfulness, Fredericks seems more reticent than his dialogue partner to engage Buddhist concepts in terms of Christian perspectives, as both probe the depths of kenosis and sunyata. Peter Phan writes of his friendship with Ngyuen Tu Cuong, a respected Vietnamese Buddhist scholar. He relays an anecdote where Nguyen’s boyhood Christian friends explained to him that he was not damned as a Buddhist because he was their friend. This prompts Phan in his usual wittiness to conclude, ‘‘Friends don’t let Friends go to hell’’ (173). Rosemary Radford Ruether writes of her friendship with Rita Gross, a pioneer of feminist...