Religious experience has a great impact on the international scenario from various view points: social, political, cultural and economic, and the interpretation of the public role religions play,which today is a complex and delicate task. Academic research is expected to progress continually and rediscover the meaning and relationships in this complex, social, cultural, and political-institutional weft of the lives of peoples,and not dwell only on some interpretative schemes that view religion as a generator of political or social instability, or be simply the gauge in a de facto pluralism that characterises our times.
The priority, for many, is to decipher the scope of religions in the light of global reality: Sophia University has accepted the challenge by instituting the International Programme of Research and Education, which made its debut on 24-25 April with a first international workshop attended by 25 scholars.
Professors of Sophia’s various departments – Bennie Callebaut, Pasquale Ferrara, Roberto Catalano, Licia Paglione, Luigino Bruni, Paolo Frizzi, and Vincenzo Di Pilato -dialogued with colleagues and international researchers from diverse cultural and religious roots, such as Olivier Roy, Fabio Petito, Adnane Mokrani, Donald Mitchell, Wolfgang Palaver, Scott Thomas, Luca Ozzano, and Shahrazad Houshmand. How did this event come about?
“For me, the preparatory phase for the workshop started a long time ago”– Roberto Catalano, interreligious dialogue expert said, “and tracing the developments leads us back to five years ago when a political-scientist friend who now teaches in Sophia, invited me to a seminar in Trent, promoted by one of the groups of the Italian Foreign Ministry and coordinated by the Italian Institute for Studies in International Politics (ISPI). To tell the truth, I felt quite shy amid the internationally renowned political scientists. The topic discussed was something new but very interesting – the return of religion into the public sphere.
In the following months, I noticed that what we had discussed turned out to be really useful for my work in the field of interreligious dialogue. When I was invited to the second event, I noted that as time passed a better understanding of the ideas and closer relationship with other colleagues began to grow. The following year I was asked to offer some ’opening remarks’ etc. and in five years’ time what had started asan academic experience became a sharing of ideas and life, and the relationship among us intensified to the point of becoming a friendship.”
At Sophia, the round table featured diplomats, political scientists, historians, economists and experts of intercultural dialogue coming from Italy, Austria, Belgium, England, USA, Iran, Algeria, Turkey and China. Furthermore, among us were Christians, Muslims and people without any religious beliefs. An equally varied group of the Institute’s students also participated as observers.
We were questioned on different aspects of religions seen from different perspectives: these were two days of reciprocal and profound listening to one another, and discovering new perspectives in the light of cultural sensitivity, dynamic real life, academic experiences, and the cultural and scientific background of each one. This is why I could say that the two words “co” and “inter” were the key words and an important gauge also for the future, in order to continue experimenting on a way of creating the sharing of culture.”
Sophia’s method offered a template for rich reflection which, without any shortcuts, skimmed through four macro issues: 1) the rethinking of the role of religions within an integrated perspective; 2) the theological dimension in society; 3) the contribution of religions to the world order; and 4) the challenges for socio-economic justice. Specific methodologies used as support tools were: 1) the interdisciplinary approach; 2) intercultural and interreligious frameworks; and 3) the correlation between theoretical-analytical reflection and the experiential and applied proposal.
The road is wide open and there are miles to travel together.The next appointment will be the Summer School “Religions in the Global World” to be held in the Province of Trent from 25-29 August 2015.