Annual Meeting of Dimmid, Norway
Jo van Haeperen, Oblate of Clerlande, Belgium
At the invitation of Sister Gilchrist Lavigne OCSO, leaders of various committees of the European DIMMID met at the end of August 2009 for their annual meeting at Lia Gard (Koppang) in Norway. Participants were first greeted warmly by the sisters in their splendid Trappist monastery Tautra, a small island in the middle of the fjord of Trondheim.
As a prelude to the session at Lia Gard, an encounter with the religious tradition of the Sami (Lapp) rightly showed that the activity of DIMMID is part of the general interreligious dialogue. What is the current situation of monastic interreligious dialogue? On the ground first! Encouraged by their respective monastic superiors, members of DIMMID realize increasingly that dialogue with Islam, and more specifically with its mystic branch, Sufism, is becoming more and more lively. Concrete experiences are increasing in most countries: prayers, reciprocal visits, shared festivals, etc. The official invitation issued to Brother Daniel Bridge to participate in the anniversary conference of the fraternity of Alawiyya at Mostaganem is an encouraging sign of the common path that is offered to both communities.
What is the impetus which is now fostering this common journey? Father Timothy Wright OSB, Abbot Emeritus of Ampleforth, was asked by the Abbot Primate Notker Wolf to explore which of these paths might be fruitful for dialogue. He mentions four:
1. The prayers of monks and Muslims share an emphasis on recita tion and meditation, using our respective Scriptures as the Word of God. Some devout Muslims, like monks, learn by heart and recite texts, because prayer is not confined to the mosque, but occurs at home and on the road. At the call to prayer five times a day the Muslim stops work to take his prayer-mat and make the prescribed rak'ahs, just as Benedict suggests that the bell calls the monks working in the fields to celebrate the Office.
2. Throughout the Muslim’s day God's words are kept in the memory, never far from the lips, just as the Rule suggests that the monk should be aware of God’s presence throughout the day.
3. Monks and Muslims understand the reception of guests as a visit from God.
4. Both monks and Muslims observe a period of asceticism, i.e. Lent and Ramadan respectively.
The detailing of these paths is undoubtedly a strong encouragement and a great incentive to continue the dialogue in discernment and authenticity.