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Schouten, Jan Peter


Jan Peter Schouten

The largest Hindu communities in Europe are found in Great Britain and the Netherlands. There has been a great deal of experience with interreligious dialogue in both countries, which occurs on several levels. First of all, there is the multilateral dialogue on a national level, whereby representatives of religions meet on an equal footing. This form of dialogue has been widely developed primarily in Great Britain Then there are the many initiatives by the churches for dialogue with Hindus. Here primarily fundamental theological questions arise, even leading to a reconsideration of one’s own tradition. It is remarkable that in both countries it is often the same theological questions that require further reflection. Finally, there are numerous local situations in which Hindus and Christians meet each other and share something of their religious background.

Jan Peter Schouten


Roberto de Nobili (1577-1656) was a key figure in the history of Christian missions in India. Based in Madurai, capital of a Hindu kingdom, he tried to reach the local Brahmins by accommodating completely to their way of life. He mastered Indian languages and studied the holy scriptures of Hinduism thoroughly. In many writings, he testified to a remarkable acquaintanceship of Hindu thinking and spirituality. His dialogical attitude brought him into conflict with both conservative Hindus and the leaders of his own Jesuit order. Later generations admired ‘the Christian sannyāsī’ for his phenomenal knowledge of languages and scriptures and his daring attempts to design Indian means of expression for the gospel. However, during the last quarter of a century, De Nobili has been criticized by Dalit theologians because of his complete adjustment to caste relations, including discrimination against low-caste people.