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A Critical Reflection and Response to Conference Keynotes

By: Evelyn Monteiro

August 22, 2022

Challenges of Global Governance: Responses to Archbishop Gallagher

Spirituality of the Culture of Encounter

Encounters are the mainstay of living fully. What would life be without that passion of looking forward to “meeting others, seeking points of contact, building bridges, planning a project that includes everyone” (Fratelli Tutti, 216)? Cultural diversity, once seen as an original tragedy, is now being recognized as one of humanity’s greatest treasures. Pluralism needs to be appreciated, accepted, defended, maintained, and promoted by all means for a harmonious social life. Multiculturalism, a complex sociopolitical issue as well as an empowering experience of encountering the different other, is not to be taken as a given and is not without its own problems. Though cultural diversity in the modern world offers new ways of being and doing politics and business, it also needs to be known that God himself willed diversity and collaboration. The entire creation attests to it. With God, we need to become promoters and caretakers of general diversity. 

Archbishop Paul Gallagher’s keynote address underlined the importance of a close relationship between global governance and the culture of encounter. However, for that to happen, life is to be seen as the art of encounter, of the interplay of diplomacy, of inclusive governance, and of the search for peace and development. Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J.’s keynote highlighted encounter as the essential dimension of cultures which serves as an instrument to overcome structural injustice that generates situations of disagreement or “dis-encounter” to transform society and achieve reconciliation with people and the natural environment.  

Discourses, discussions, and even a concrete action plan that facilitate the culture of encounter are necessary for global governance and peace. However, the much hyped culture of encounter runs the risk of being reduced to noisy talk in the absence of an inclusive spirituality that ensures we walk the talk. Without a spiritual anchorage, such well-meaning efforts can become stumbling discourses rather than socio-cultural, economic, and political catalyzers. 

The two keynote addresses present a spirituality of the culture of encounter for peace in the world and pursuit of the common good. As the social beings that we are, born to interact with one another, the culture of encounter seems intrinsic to our nature. Developing this dimension appears indispensable, for through cultural constructs – symbols, myths, and paradigms – individuals and communities find meaning for situations in life and human encounters. 

The universal values that give life and relationships authentic meaning are love and justice. Love inspires companionship and conviviality. It sees the other person as an alter ego, but not a threat or rival. Justice inspires equality in relationships and generosity towards others. It is respect for the rights of others but also redressing any wrongs committed.

Human life is sacred, and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of ethical vision of society and of all the principles of good governance. This belief is upheld by all religions and cultures and echoes in the political constitutions of nations. In a postmodern world, human life is often degraded by human greed of hegemonic powers. The belief that “might makes right” looks at the culture of encounter for global governance as meaningless and profitless discourse. Today, more than ever, misinformed people seem to prefer visionless political leaders and dictators. This drama is destroying much cherished traditional values and democratic principles. Where do we go from here? 

Can we find creative and effective ways to protect human life and dignity, prevent conflicts and confrontations, and obviate a pandemic of hatred and indifference that threatens to destroy humanity and our Mother Earth? We believe that we cannot sacrifice people for things. We believe that each human life is more precious than the most precious thing on earth. This is the keystone of the culture of encounter that denounces discrimination based on gender, religion, ethnicity, class, or caste.

Central to the principle of human dignity is the understanding that every human being is created in the image of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and destined for union with God. Hence, he or she is worthy of respect no matter what. Mutual respect among humans is the first form of love because it recognizes the intrinsic value of the other as a person created in God’s image. The ultimate basis of peace is the ability to see others as our equals, like our brothers and sisters of the same Father. We are interconnected. We need each other to mature and become productive in God’s kingdom.

The encounter of the Samaritan with a stranger fallen on the road and the meeting of Jesus with the disciples at Emmaus are vivid examples of intercultural encounters. Because he could cross cultural fences, the Samaritan’s eyes and heart opened up to human suffering. Jesus’ disciples of Emmaus were still trapped in their cultural prejudices of an invincible Jesus when the risen Jesus encountered them. Perhaps preoccupied with their political ambitions and positions, they failed to recognize their guru in the Emmaus encounter. Their cultural paradigms were dissonant. Jesus takes the initiative and tells them he, like the disciples, needs to walk the talk. It is only the encounter of hearts that takes place. This is a spiritual and intercultural encounter which cannot be rationally understood. But the result of this profound encounter can be – the disciples urge Jesus to share their home and their table. Authentic encounter leads to transformation and empowerment. 

The spirituality of the culture of encounter invites us to walk towards, and not away from, the other as Jesus and the Samaritan did, even when the personal and human-made social and religious fences are pretty high. It calls us to proclaim a new culture of life by revering life, loving life, and fostering life at all stages and in all personal and global relationships.