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Javier Prades, Occidente: l’ineludibile incontro

J. Prades, Occidente: l’ineludibile incontro, Edizioni Cantagalli, Siena 2008, 141 pp.  

In a three-part analysis Javier Prades Lopez, professor of Dogmatic Theology at the San Dámaso Faculty of Theology in Madrid, looks at the inescapably dialogic nature of the West, especially Europe. The roots for accepting this kind of dialogue are located in a certain kind of theological-anthropological thinking, one that goes beyond merely accepting the historical fact that civilisations meet and mix, but also recognises that understanding such roots can help us understand contemporary reflections on the meeting between cultures and assist us in finding some real answers to some contemporary challenges like terrorism.




In the first essay, titled Multiculturalità, tradizione, meticciato (Multiculturality, tradition, mestizaje,) the author looks at some foundational notions that can nurture today’s discussions of the topic. In his view today’s thinking about multiculturalism does not reach convincing conclusions within our globalised and post-industrial society.


For the author thinking about the subject requires a type of rationality that is not simply technical-instrumental, but includes instead a return to real experiences. The latter can play a useful role if they are based on an actual encounter of civilisations, something that is possible because of the presence of a number of ethnic groups in Western societies. In this context dialogue does not simply refer to accepting others or relativising values or traditions, but is based on the shared foundations of the human experience. Ultimately from unsatisfactory reflections on contemporary multiculturalism we are led to reflect on the anthropological and theological bases of the human experience.


Such are also the issues dealt in the second essay, Libertà di coscienza nel dialogo interreligioso (Freedom of conscience in inter-faith dialogue), which focuses on inter-faith dialogue as the essential foundation for true dialogue between peoples since it is based on freedom of conscience.




On the surface Christianity’s absoluteness appears to be at odds with a real dialogue between faiths and religions. In reality it is by asserting Christianity’s truth that we can meet others. In fact, the various documents of the Magisterium enable us to sidestep the risk of relativising Christianity’s truth, of separating the public from the private sphere, and inadequately communicating the truth itself.




In upholding the truth we can see some of the bases for universally valid methods that are in the evangelical message. In a virtuous circle founded on freedom and truth we can overcome any barrier that may come between a believer’s commitment and his recognition of the personal truth of Christ as something absolute. In bearing witness and in latter’s radically communitarian character, the unambiguous traits of the announcement and of the dialogue between religions can be recognised.




In his third essay, L’uomo cristiano di fronte al terrorismo nichilistico (Christians in the face of nihilistic terrorism), Javier Prades Lopez looks at the anthropological roots of terrorism from a global perspective, but with a special focus on Spain. Terrorism, he argues, deforms man as Imago Dei in its deepest sense and breaks anthropology’s fundamental references which are based on a relational synergy between the universal and the particular. At the same time, by viewing terrorism as the negation of man’s identity and vocation, we can recognised these anthropological foundations, which nihilistic terrorism may deny but which it cannot destroy.




Such a search enables us to consider a number of theological and magisterial reflections as well as the most developed ideas that have come out of today’s dialogic thinking. As one of humankind’s constituent elements, inside the right institutions the ‘me-and-the-other’ relationship can provide Christians some space of manoeuvre to be as one people whilst being part of many peoples. Hence peace and education can finally become decisive and necessary elements to bear true witness to one’s tradition. And on this basis Europe can truly fulfill its calling, which is to be a meeting place for civilisations.


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