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Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Religions in the Contemporary World

A year after the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s editorial staff

The massacre of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, exactly a year ago on 7 January 2015, dealt with the internationally discussed issue of religion, and recently confirmed how religions continue to represent, also from the political standpoint, factors of great impact that influence cultural, political and economic dynamics in most parts of the globe.

The event had also deeply shaken the academic community of SUI, which, in keeping up with the related reports, had undertaken to reach a deeper comprehension of this chapter of contemporary history, also with the help of various experts. Some students had asked for the insertion of a new activity in the academic programme, to achieve an in-depth view of those events and start up a contribution in line with the Institute’s basic principles of creating relations and dialogue.

In the light of this request, some considerations were delineated, with regard to two important facts. Firstly, along the years, SUI has constantly been an attraction pole for groups of various religions on their visits to the international town of Loppiano, and has ensured and stimulated continuous reflections. Secondly, Sophia has always been a dynamic site of lively, scientific reflections on the theme, also due to a syllabus on interreligious dialogue – TEO 207, with Professors Vincenzo Di Pilato, Roberto Catalano and Paolo Frizzi – along with a dedicated research programme. It thus seemed to be the right moment to respond to the request brought up by the International situation and concurred in the decision to bring the experience matured through the years into the core of a new academic programme.

The course – INT 102, given by Prof. Paolo Frizzi, entitled Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Religions in the Contemporary World to start next February 2016 – intends to exploit SUI’s role in education and the field of religious experience. To do so, the institute focused on three specific points: interdisciplinary elements, through the presentation of the perspectives and input of the various sciences; workshop activities, to activate the direct contribution of the students who are encouraged to draw up tools and ideas that meet the challenges of our contemporary age; and third, English as the course language, so as to be more immediate in conveying SUI’s ideas on this theme and involving a more extensive network of professors, experts and leaders in the interreligious field.

The course will be enriched by the direct participation of an interdisciplinary and interreligious team of professors – from the theological, political, economic and social sectors – who already share common epistemological perspectives of religions, thanks to the activities of the Research and Educational Programme entitled Religions in the Global World promoted by SUI, in which they are all involved. 

To give at least a foretaste of the themes to be dealt with in each lesson – that arose from the debate which currently focuses not only on the relationships between religions, but especially on the relationships of these with secular society – the following topics will therefore be covered: Christian theology and society; religions and the world order; Islam; religious freedom in international law; Contemporary Judaism; religions and economy; and the frontiers of interreligious dialogue.

The students will be asked to contribute also with their reflections and essays, or for the more daring ones, to develop ideas and give suggestions for rethinking the role of religions in the international framework, so as to delineate concrete contribution to handling cultural and social differences, and the promotion of peace.

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