Michael AMALADOSS.  Interreligious Encounters: Opportunities and Challenges.  Ed. Jonathan Y. Tan.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017. pp. 250. $45 pb. ISBN 9781626982215.  Reviewed by Peter DRILLING, Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, NY 14052.


            In his editor's preface, Jonathan Tan introduces Michael Amaladoss as an "interreligious theologian par excellence."  This reviewer would specify that Amaladoss certainly knows his way around the complex field of interreligious dialogue and invites his readers to engage the issues both intelligently and wholeheartedly.  An Indian Jesuit, Amaladoss was baptized and raised in the Catholic Church in a pervasively Hindu religious and cultural context.  He himself writes about his interreligious concerns: "I am obviously searching as an Indian. I can specify this identity further as Hindu-Christian" (p. 175).  His theological vision of successful interreligious interaction is "unity-in-plurality" (p. xvii).  At one point, the author was investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and his response to that criticism is a lively and well-documented presentation of the teaching of Vatican II on interreligious dialogue (chapter 15).  Paired with the author's introduction to this book, the reader is here given a fine summary statement of where we have come from in the teaching and spirit of the Second Vatican Council and where we are now in the Catholic position on interreligious dialogue.

  The approach of Amaladoss that this reviewer finds most helpful, as well as challenging, for contemporary theological and pastoral interreligious dialogue in the multiple local situations around the world, is that the author is not concerned with this issue just in the abstract.  To quote the editor, Amaladoss deals with "living life to the full in a multireligious world" (xxi).  His approach to interreligious issues is not just academic but as a lived experience.  Throughout the book, the author recounts many instances of interreligious dialogue and practice as that has taken place and continues to do so in a wide range of ways.

   Several times, in various chapters, Amaladoss brings into his text an often used way of considering interreligious options: exclusivist (there is no place for the other); inclusivist (the other is gathered into the frame of reference of one religion); and pluralist (the several religions exist side by side without any significant efforts to really share).  The author doesn't find the exclusivist and inclusivist approaches helpful, nor the pluralist, if it means not sharing.  On the other hand, plurality is simply a fact in the human world of religions, whether we think globally and, more often than not, locally.  Another approach to understanding how the religions relate to one another the author finds more helpful.  It is a set of terms developed by Aloysius Pieris.  "Synthesis creates a new religion combining the elements of two other religions.  Syncretism indiscriminately mixes symbols and other elements from the two religions.  Symbiosis integrates the two religions in a meaningful way" (p. 193).  Here symbiosis is an option sometimes worth pursuing.  But rather than any of the three options, Amaladoss encourages finding harmony in plurality.

  Complicating matters is the reality that all religions include cosmic, this-worldly, characteristics, along with meta-cosmic, transcendent, characteristics.  The study of the interrelation of the two in the context of interreligious dialogue is fascinating.  Thus, words and symbols and rituals have an inevitable this-worldly character to them.  At the same time, religions deal with the divine mystery in various ways and to various extents.  In the postmodern world that highlights "the other," this multi-faceted character of each religion, as each relates to the others, is complex indeed.  Coming out of his lived experience in India, Michael Amaladoss provides much to ponder from the cosmic and meta-cosmic perspectives.  Throughout his chapters he makes very clear that his is a Christian identity; he relates to God manifest in the incarnate mission of Christ Jesus and in the mission of the Holy Spirit.  In that identity, he and all Christians can willingly, and even eagerly, interact with adherents of Hinduism, and other religions. Of course, we hope for the same openness on the part of the adherents of the other religions, but, as Amaladoss repeats over and over, we need to meet others where they are.

  This is a resource book for theologians to study as they research the complex meaning of interreligious dialogue. It can also serve very usefully as a handbook for pastoral ministers to consult as they try to sort out the practicalities of interreligious dialogue and shared living and, sometimes, common worship on the local scene.