From 25 to 30 August, 40 Christian and Muslim university students and 8 professors of 15 countries participated in the initiative of Sophia University Institute (SUI) held in the Dolomite Mountains with the support of the Province of Trent. SUI professor, Roberto Catalano, summarised the event.
The Summer School was held in Tonadico in the Dolomite Mountains, not only due to the marvelous scenario of the locality, but also for the bond that existed between Chiara Lubich and those mountain districts. It was there, in fact, that in 1949 with some of her young companions, Chiara lived that mystic experience that is central to the history of the Work she had started.
The idea of a summer school on “Religions in a global world” sparked up last April, at the end of an interdisciplinary seminar held at the Sophia University Institute. On that occasion a group of experts had started up an interdisciplinary, interreligious reflection (the scholars were Christians, Sciites and Sunnis Muslims, one was an expert on Buddhism and another, a lay thinker) and an intercultural event since there were also scholars from North Africa, Turkey, Iran, China and the USA, besides the European countries.
The School program consisted of six general sessions, four of which were reserved for those who enrolled and two were open to the public. The one-to-one lessons were held after the work group discussions.
The Sophia spirit lies precisely in uniting the dichotomy between life and thought, spiritual experience and scientific research. This perspective brought out the need to clarify how one’s personal comprehension of the truth harmonizes with that of people of other religions and cultures. A Slovak student highlighted how the research for knowledge can no longer be individual or monodisciplinary, but a community commitment that unites professors and students in the research efforts which should also be ,matched with a life commitment.
Slowly, the participants managed to create a setting in which cultural contents and life perspectives harmonized, and solidified not only the traditional dichotomies, but also helped to break down cultural and religious barriers. Also the recreational moments were an occasion to deepen relationships, and delve into the deep differences in the worlds of each one, thus enhancing concrete dialogue where all is possible and sustainable.
On the mountain peaks at 2,500 metres, the Christians gathered to celebrate Mass while the Muslims had their prayer rituals.
At the closing of the School, the students all felt that they were bound by a sense of profound fraternity. The differences were still there, but now appeared as sources of mutual enrichment.
On his way back, a young Shiite student wrote: “I would like to dedicate my first post on Facebook to the extraordinary group I was lucky to pass the Sophia Summer School with. I was able to present my faith in its authentic form, an opportunity that often is not possible in the light of the false image others often transmit of my religion. Likewise, I was also able to delve deeply into their lives, and in the faith of those I consider my brothers and sisters. The experience I had within the magical setting of the Dolomites, helped me to make a new discovery of the Catholic religion: I pray that we can continue this very important work. »