The college will open in August in the year Filipino bishops dedicated to Ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and indigenous peoples. For PIME missionary, young people should “remain committed leaders, open to dialogue in the contexts in which they live.”
Zamboanga City (AsiaNews) – The new Emmaus College of Theology will support the vocations of young Catholics in a spirit of dialogue with people of different cultures and religions, Fr Sebastiano D’Ambra told AsiaNews.
The clergyman from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) has been in Mindanao for over 40 years. He is the founder of the Silsilah movement, a venue for Christians and Muslims to meet, and is the current executive secretary of the Commission for interreligious dialogue of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The new college will open in August in the year that Filipino bishops have dedicated to Ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and indigenous peoples.
“This school is only the latest chapter in a story that began in 1987 with the birth of the Emmaus Dialogue Community,” Fr D'Ambra said. The latter was founded by Aminda E. Saño together with two other Catholic teachers who were part of Silsilah, which the missionary had established three years earlier.
“Emmaus grew up inside Silsilah,” Fr D'Ambra explained, “but while the latter group is aimed at dialogue between religions, the former unites Catholics who want to deepen their Christian faith by focusing on certain elements such as peace and harmony between faiths.”
For the PIME missionary, the Emmaus College of Theology “is meant to be a challenge, an attempt to prepare young Catholics for any vocation life offers them. Whatever their choice, it is important for us that they remain committed leaders, open to dialogue in the contexts in which they live. Whilst living our Christian faith, we are still part of the great human family!”
“Among the concepts that we want to promote,” notes Fr D'Ambra, “there is that about married life understood as a real vocation. Today more than ever, we need models of the Christian family.
“Here in Mindanao and in the Philippines in general, the danger is represented by secularism and materialism, which often drive the faithful away from the Church and lead to the de-Christianisation of society.
“Concurrently, Muslims reaffirm their beliefs, but some are tempted by the most radical interpretations. In this context we want to take care of the education of young people through the Emmaus College of Theology.”
Over the past few months, the college received all the required government certifications to operate as a higher education institution.
“In accordance with the Filipino educational system, students will have access to a four-year course of study,” Fr D'Ambra explained. “In this period of life, young people decide what to do when they grow up.
“In addition to knowledge, it is therefore crucial to offer them training. Young people will not only be prepared academically, but will also be exposed to the reality of interreligious dialogue.
“Above all the last two years will be dedicated to this topic, whilst the first years will deal with broader subjects.”
Finally, “In April, after Easter, we will open registrations. Classes will begin next August. Our initiative has already sparked interest, but we are still in the planning stage.”
What is more, “In the last few weeks, I have also been busy raising funds for a building larger than the one we currently have in our Harmony Village in Pitogo, 7 kilometres from Zamboanga City. Although the latter is sufficient to start, we must also think about the future.”