Ilarion: Teach theology to defeat ignorance and extremism
The Orthodox Metropolitan says teaching theology would help "liquidate illiteracy" and avoid errors. Theological studies can only be interdenominational. The problem of the security of the person and society" is linked to religion.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Orthodox Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev) has called for the fearless condemnation of extremism, religious radicalism and terrorism, which depend on religious ignorance and theological misinterpretations and which, he warned, are "our real enemies, who do not serve the Most High, but the will of the devil".
Ilarion, rector of the Cyril and Methodius Institute of Specialization in Orthodox Theology shared this reflection with the participants of the Fifth Russian Theological-Scientific Conference. With the blessing of Orthodox Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev), the event was held in Moscow in early December on the theme "Theology in the scientific and educational sphere: theory, history, practice of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in the context of global challenges."
The conference also received greetings from President Vladimir Putin, the Minister of University and Scientific Research Valerij Falkov, the Minister of Education Sergej Kravtsov, the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Olga Vasilieva, the Mufti of the Religious Assembly of Muslims of Russia Albir-Khasrat Krganov and the Grand Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar.
After the first introductory session, the work of the forum was divided into two areas: the first on "Interreligious Dialogue and Traditional Values in the Context of Global Challenges," and the second on "Profiling Youth Participation in Extremist Activities," assessing the contribution of theology to social life in Russia from different perspectives.
Ilarion echoed the words of good wishes sent by Patriarch Kirill, according to whom "theology has now become by us a new branch of humanitarian sciences, with an increasingly mature scientific community and great research activity." These results were achieved "thanks to the contribution of the world of teachers and educators, along with representatives of the various religious traditions and the competent bodies of state power," the metropolitan added.
"We wouldn't have achieved these successes if there wasn't a great demand for theology," Ilarion explained, extolling the long process that led to state recognition of theological studies in recent years. In his opinion "theology can only be interconfessional, with the contribution of Orthodoxy, Islam and other religious traditions"; it is necessary to create doctoral colleges on the basis of scientific competence and on the presence of representatives of different religious denominations, depending on the topic of the dissertation.
Ilarion wanted to clarify the role of theology in the secular educational sphere, public and private, and not only in the institutes of religious training of ministers of religion and specialists in the ecclesiastical sphere. Thus "Russian literature is studied at school and university not only to make students literate, and the same is true of physics or opera, all the more so of the history of Russia; why should theology be set aside?" The level of religious ignorance in Russia today "still appears staggering, even among people who are highly educated in various fields of knowledge." Teaching theology at least serves to "liquidate illiteracy" and to avoid "brandishable and gross errors."
As the Metropolitan explained, "theological knowledge helps people regardless of their religious affiliation, allows them to look properly at works of art and literature, and in general to look at the world around them from another point of view." According to Ilarion, "many eternal and current issues are related in one way or another to religion, such as the problem of security of the person and society."