ASIA/MONGOLIA - The richness of Faiths. Working together for the good of all

Wednesday, 23 August 2023 mission   dialogue   buddhism   islam   fratelli tutti  

by Gianni Valente

Ulaanbaatar (Agenzia Fides) - "I met the Mongolian rulers and they assured me that the new Constitution guarantees religious pluralism and that all religions and confessions will be welcomed. The interesting thing is that so far among the more than two million Mongols there is not a single Christian. One in number, I mean". Thus, in April 1992, the great Belgian missionary and sinologist Jerome Heyndrickx, former superior of the Chinese province of the Scheut missionary Congregation, recounted some interesting details of the trip he made in October 1991, when he went to Ulaanbaatar to set up the first Catholic missions in Mongolia, after the rulers of that country had asked for diplomatic relations to be established with the Holy See. Even today, the approximately 1,500 Mongolian Catholics represent a small community in a population that mostly professes Lamaist Buddhism (see Victor Gaetan's article in Fides 24/7/2023).
According to the 2020 national census, 52% of the nation is Buddhist, 41% consider themselves "non-religious", 3.2% are Muslim. And all the missionary work that has flourished in Mongolia in recent decades has always had as an indispensable dimension and structural trait, openness to encounters with believers of other faiths, as attested by the fifth video-reportage produced for Fides Agency by Teresa Tseng Kuang yi in view of Pope Francis' trip to Mongolia (August 31-September 4)

Mongolia - Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, Consolata missionary and Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, explains in the video-reportage - as "a Country with a long tradition of spirituality, both shamanic and Buddhist, and also partly Islamic" immediately stood out "for this great richness" that also appealed to Catholic missionaries. A religious plurality that men and women missionaries have come to know, study and appreciate, in a dialogue that has grown over time, and has also taken the form of a practice of increasingly frequent regular meetings with representatives of other faiths. For the past two years, meetings on coexistence and inter-religious dialogue have been held bimonthly. And during the meetings - adds Cardinal Marengo in the video-reportage - "themes of common interest and also difficulties and possibilities for common solutions are explored in depth", and shared initiatives are promoted, especially in the charitable field.

The experience of friendship and collaboration between believers of different faith communities, far from any abstraction, has practical implications that affect national coexistence. This experience - emphasizes the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar - shows that "every genuine, authentic religious tradition contributes in its own way to the growth of society". And "the various religious traditions are not a threat in their diversity, but if they manage to harmonize well with each other, they are a resource for every society, for the State". Like a "wealth that we put into dialogue, into circulation among us".
The meetings that Pope Francis will have with religious leaders during his upcoming trip to Mongolia will be able to comfort and confirm missionaries and the Mongolian Catholic community in their journey of brotherhood and closeness with believers of other faiths. "We know", Cardinal Marengo confides in the video reportage, "that friends and representatives of other religious traditions also have great respect and admiration for the Holy Father". (Agenzia Fides, 23/8/2023)