09/20/2004, 00.00
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The Past as part of the dialogue between cultures in the Middle East

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The 9th Syriac Symposium and the 7th conference on Christian Arab Studies start today in Kaslik, near Beirut. The two events are organised jointly by the Holy Spirit University (Kaslik) and the CEDRAC of Saint Joseph University (Beirut). They are held as part of an ongoing effort by the two universities to pursue a dialogue of civilisations and counter the arguments of those who subscribe to the "clash of civilisations" hypothesis.

These two major Catholic institutions understand the importance of inter-cultural dialogue and through such congresses intend to make more people aware of the ancient and diverse cultural map of the Middle East, one that includes Arabs, Syriacs, Greeks, Copts, Persians, etc.

The congresses bring together some 150 scholars and researchers from Europe, the US, India as well as about 100 experts from Lebanon and other Arab countries.

More than 200 papers will be presented (and discussed beginning today till Saturday). Some will deal with decoding Syriac and Arabic translations of ancient Aramaic, Coptic, Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. Others will try to uncover the mystery that surrounds some icons, frescoes and partly obliterated engravings. Others still will discuss Syriac music, the Syriac role in biblical exegesis, intercultural dialogue among the Syriac diaspora in the West, manuscript preservation in the Middle East, a 7th century Arabic version of the Gospels, the Qu'ran, Arabic versions of Testamentum Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, a document that dates back to 1743.

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