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    » 06/21/2010, 00.00

    VATICAN – LEBANON

    Oasis: educating Christians and Muslims to save the world from scientific and religious fundamental

    Bernardo Cervellera

    Lebanon is and was (even during the civil war) a model of life together because of its schools and universities. Card Tauran notes a movement back to religion in secularised societies. Card Scola says fundamentalism can be defeated by educating in truth and freedom.

    Fatka (AsiaNews) – Education can be the chief instrument to bring Christians and Muslims to live together if it is free from “absolute positivism” and “formal fundamentalism”. The former reduces education to the transmission of facts collected in the exact sciences, seen as man’s only horizon, stifling his other dimensions. The latter passes on rules of behaviour and “truths” that need not freely welcome others, pushing adherents towards violence and social destruction. This is what Card Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice, said at the start of the annual meeting of the scientific committee of the Oasis Foundation, titled this year “Education between faith and culture: Christian and Muslim experiences in dialogue”.

    The meeting, annually held alternatively in Venice and outside of Italy, brought together about 60 leading Christian and Muslim figures from Asia, North Africa, Europe and the Americas. This year, the event is being held at the House of the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family from 19 to 23 June, in Fatka, north of Beirut (Lebanon), a location with view on the Mediterranean and the statue of Our Lady of Harissa.  

    Lebanon’s choice was almost a must since it is the country with the highest levels of literacy (93 per cent for men and 84 per cent for women) in the Middle East, where Christians and Muslims share their education and attend each other’s schools. Many speakers actually remembered John Paul II, who defined the country itself as a “message”.

    In the first two days, committee participants visited a number of locations. Proceedings formally began this morning with a brief introduction by Card Nasrallah Sfeir, the Maronite Patriarch, and Mr Tarek Mitri, Lebanon’s Information Minister.

    Mitri noted that Lebanon decided to set aside 25 March, the Christian Feast Day of the Annunciation, as a national holiday to strengthen Christian-Muslim dialogue around the devotion for the Virgin Mary. He stressed that dialogue is hugely important as a form of “preventive diplomacy” to guarantee peace. For this reason, it has to be lasting, resilient and credible.

    Lebanese speakers stressed, with difference nuances, that schools and universities played an important role in allowing the Lebanese to learn about one another across the religious divide even during the Civil War, when confessional divisions were at their strongest.

    Some, like Prof Antoine Messarra, argued that confessional schools played a positive role in this because their clearly demarcated identity helped defeat the fear of others. Prof Hisham Nashabe, of Makassed University, highlighted the role of public schools in bringing together students from different religious backgrounds around common values. All speakers, Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites, condemned violent fundamentalism (Christian as well) because it leads to ill will and threatens Lebanon’s mix.

    One of them, Sheikh Ridwan Al-Sayyed, of the Université Libanaise, lamented the rise of fundamentalism in the Muslim world, in private life and schools as well as in mass media (radio and TV). Social plans are equally inspired by that orientation. In the end, Muslims no longer speak to non-Muslims, but are also unable to speak to one another in the Muslims world, choosing instead to impose rules in personal matters (women’s dress, prayer, etc.) or turning against foreigners (without criticising the dictatorial regimes under which they live).

    Card Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that in a certain way fundamentalism is a sign of the rebirth of religious needs in modern society, referring in particular to the secularised societies of the West, and of the need for religion to have a place in organising our societies. He noted that religions should work together for the world, inspired by shared values like solidarity, freedom, spiritual and a thirst for knowledge.

    In this first the day, one element highlighted by cardinal Scola in his presentation, took the back the seat, namely the idea that education “is an act of love whereby the educators give themselves, totally, bearing witness to the truth that they already live, and which they freely give to students. If education is not a “meeting in freedom”, he said, it inevitably becomes “fundamentalism”. For this reason, “the best antidote to fundamentalism is education . . . , not any education, but education that knows how to hold together truth and freedom”.

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    See also

    23/06/2010 VATICAN – LEBANON
    Oasis: Islamic states and Western secularism stifling education
    In the Middle East, Lebanon’s pluralism is an exception. In Egypt, Christians are seen as “god-less”. In Pakistan, they cannot talk about Islam for fear of being accused of blasphemy. In France, secularism is stifling every religious dimension of society.

    17/06/2010 LEBANON – ITALY
    The Oasis international scientific committee meets in Beirut
    The event, set for 19-23 June, will focus on the topic of “Education between faith and culture”. More than 70 Catholic and Muslim religious and intellectual figures are expected to attend. For organisers, the gathering provides an opportunity to look at Christian life in Muslim countries, in light of the recent assassination of Mgr Luigi Padovese in Turkey.

    22/06/2009 VATICAN – ISLAM
    Progress between Christians and Muslims but problems in Saudi Arabia, says Cardinal Tauran
    The president of the Pontifical Council for interreligious Dialogue highlights an improved atmosphere and greater trust in Muslim-Catholic relations, also after Benedict XVI’s trip to the Holy Land. Problems do remain, including the right of Muslims to convert and the possibility to have Christian places of worship in the Saudi kingdom. Oasis conference focuses on tradition and dialogue between religions and cultures. Issues touched include the US, French and British cases, the development of Islam in given nations, and the move away from literalism in Qur’anic exegesis.

    20/06/2013 ISLAM
    Oasis: a "shared grammar" for Islam and Christianity in the face of secularism
    Secularisation is underway in the Islamic world that is not driven by Western anti-religious ideologies. In Iran, civil society, especially young people and women, is putting pressure on the ayatollahs for greater space and rights. In Morocco, the separation of state and religion is gaining ground even among Islamist parties. In Saudi Arabia, the alliance of Wahhabism and consumerism is society's worst enemy. At the end, Card Scola sums up the meeting.

    20/06/2011 ISLAM
    Christian humanism to help the unexpected “Arab spring”
    The scientific committee of the journal Oasis opened its annual meeting to discuss the present and future of the ‘Jasmine Revolutions’. Great new things are now possible, ranging from the battle against poverty and the struggle for human dignity to the rejection of Islamic radicalism. There are also worrisome signs with regard to fundamentalist groups and fears in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Europe. For Patriarch Scola, a new “economic reason” is necessary. Christian humanism must help the changes underway.



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