Interculturality: A New Paradigm Of Mission

“Intercultural praxis as a missionary challenge. Mission and interculturality” was the theme of the 12th Limone Symposium of the Comboni Family that included Comboni religious, lay Comboni Missionaries and Secular Comboni Missionaries, and took place in Limone sul Garda on April 3rd and 6th, 2018.

The Symposium’s objective was a reflection over the intercultural praxis as a new paradigm of mission, also in Europe, a continent the Comboni Missionaries, men and women, see as a “mission territory”, and not only simply a place from which to send missionaries. Confreres and sisters from other continents serving in Europe also attended the symposium. The participants numbered 36 and 12 were the nationalities represented.

In the first presentation, Comboni Father Palmiro Mileto, with a long academic experience in Africa, offered a reflection on “the interpretative perspectives of interculturality and otherness” Fr. Mileto outlined a grammar of interculture, defining terms and concepts – such as pluro-cultural, multicultural, intercultural, transcultural, identity and otherness – and applying them to the missionary praxis.

Interculturality defines a process of deconstruction and decolonisation in our cultural (and missionary) mentality, a true cultural conversion, both at the personal and at the communitarian, spiritual, structural levels. The future of Christianity in the third millennium will probably be played out in the building places of interculturality.

On the second day of the symposium, Gaetano Sabetta, a layman involved in missionary projects of inter-religious dialogue in India and a professor at the Urbaniana University in Rome, spoke on “The Gospel in dialogue with cultures and religions. The contribution to interculturality of the meeting of religions in the perspective of ecclesial orthogenesis”. Sabetta presented a new model of intercultural mission – but also of theology – proper to the Churches in Asia, namely the one of a “three way dialogue with the cultures, the religions and with poverty that goes beyond the model of inculturation”.

This way of doing theology- comparative, dialogical, inter-religious – does not take anything away from the uniqueness of Christ, which in fact is rediscovered in a more intelligible way by other religious traditions. The theme was further studied in the course of some workshops coordinated by Carmelo Dotolo, dean of the Faculty of Missiology of the Urbaniana University.

In the concluding day, Comboni Father Joseph Crea, professor at the Psychology Institute of the Salesian University in Rome, spoke on the theme of the “Mediation of the multicultural identities in multi-ethnic communities. Formation to cultural mediation”. Mediation, states Fr. Crea, “starts with the loss of our certitudes, a condition sine qua non in order to dismantle prejudgments and stereotypes and to activate in a creative way new intercultural paths of formation and of mission”. The witness of intercultural experiences by two African Comboni Missionaries, the Togolese Nordjoe Yao Djodjo Eugene and the Kenyan Sireu Ang’Irotum Abraham, who work in Europe, contributed to integrate the psychological reflection.

During the symposium, what emerged was the importance of favoring and accompanying intercultural places and spaces in the situations where we are involved – in our missionary institutes, in popular movements and associations, in parishes and dioceses, in politics and in society, among, migrants, the youth, religions.

This in order to dream of a new Pentecost, a Church and a society capable of accepting the resourses of diversity, the richness of the encounter and of dialogue, in view of a common living that will be both just and fraternal. Thus interculturality becomes a style of life and a paradigm of how to do and be mission.

– Mario Menin and Giorgio Padovan

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