From the Oasis Foundation website:
To speak of mestizaje in London is to describe a fact that is before the eyes of everybody: the most cosmopolitan city in the world in fact hosts all the ethnic groups, cultures and religions of the world. Nonetheless, well beyond the old ‘multiculti’ story, this is not achieved without difficulties and conflicts. This is why it is necessary to retrace the reasons for coexistence among people of different origin which, in his speech in the House of Lords, Cardinal Scola identified in the practical good of being together.
A founding text which represents a further step for Oasis: without forgetting the world with a Muslim majority and the Christian communities living in it, but in fact with this in mind the Foundation launches a reflection on the challenges awaiting the West and its models of society.
In his lecture at Heythrop College in the afternoon, Cardinal Scola considered more specifically the four common areas for development awaiting Christians and Muslims: religious freedom, economic crisis, secularisation and ethical issues. It is the idea of the new cultural relevance that Christians and Muslims can have of each other.
LORD ALTON’S WELCOME REMARKS
Religion, Plurality and the Common Good: The Proposal of the Oasis Foundation
With HE Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan,
President of the Oasis International Foundation
15th November 2012
Seminar: Committee Room 4A, House of Lords, Westminster
Your Eminence, Archbishop Mennini, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
A very warm welcome to all of you here to the Palace of Westminster.
It is a great honour and a pleasure for me to introduce to you His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Scola for what I’m sure will be some fascinating and enlightening discussions on one of the most important issues of our time.
Your Eminence, ever since you had the idea for the Oasis Foundation in 2004, it has achieved a great deal in creating vital space for dialogue and understanding between Christians and Muslims and their respective cultures. In fostering mutual knowledge and encounter between Christians and Muslims, it takes as its motto: “Christians and Muslims in an age of métissage of civilisations”, a term which the Cardinal will – I guess – clarify in his exposition.
This morning’s encounter at Westminster – and the public lecture at the Heythrop College that will follow in the afternoon – has twin objectives: from one side, to present the work of Oasis and its activities for interreligious dialogue to the UK. From the other side, to allow Oasis and its President, Cardinal Scola, to get a closer knowledge of the British reality, in its different dimensions: political, cultural, social and ecclesial.
Oasis works mainly in the field of cultural dialogue, that is, by comparing the ways in which Christians and Muslims interpret and live their respective faiths.
The first focus of Oasis is on the Christian minorities in the Middle East and the Muslim societies in which they live. And obviously enough, Oasis has been devoting recently a great deal of reflection on the Arab revolutions and their possible outcomes. However, through this study, the Foundation has concluded that the transition which is occurring on the southern shore of the Mediterranean is challenging also the historical fabric of the Western Societies. This is the fundamental reason why the Foundation was so keen to organize a presentation in London.
I can anticipate therefore that you are not going to listen to an “orientalistic” exposition about Islam and the small Christian minorities in the Middle East. Rather, you are going to be given a picture of our pluralistic society through the mirror of these realities. This is exactly one of the aspects of the unprecedented mixing of cultures that we are witnessing, most notably in the UK: that you can no longer separate between “them” and “us”, “there” and “here”: we all face the same challenges and everybody is called to draw the best from its tradition and to propose it to others. This is, as it seems to me, the way Oasis works.
The Oasis foundation has a vast network of relationship: a board of promoters including Cardinals and Bishops, from the West, but also from the Countries with an Islamic majority, and a scientific board, which meet every year, alternatively in the West and in the Middle East.
Its conception has proved providential, coming at a time when – as we all know – tensions between Christians and Muslims have been on the rise throughout the world.
But the foundation’s greatest and unique strength, I believe, has been to recognize the complexity of these tensions, offering intelligent, profound and effective responses to the challenges faced in – what His Eminence has rightly called – our “hybridized” societies.
Oasis goes beyond mere intellectualism, and seeks to transcend usual labels such as multiculturalism and reciprocity and the usual “moderate – radical” epithets.
All of this is to be applauded, and I am sure we will learn much more about this invaluable and greatly needed approach today.
Before I hand over to His Eminence, I also introduce to you three highly respected scholars with an interest in this field who will lead a debate after Cardinal Scola’s lecture:
Dr. Karim Lahham is a barrister and an expert in Islamic Law who completed his doctorate at the University of Cambridge;
Professor John Milbank is a theologian who lectures in religion, politics and ethics at the University of Nottingham;
And Ian Richard Netton, Sharjah Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. Professor Netton was recently appointed Consultor of the Vatican Commission for religious relations with Muslims.
For those of you who do not know him:
Cardinal Angelo Scola was born in Malgrate (Lecco) in 1941. Ordained priest in 1970, consecrated bishop in 1991, he became Patriarch of Venice in 2002 and was appointed to the College of Cardinals in 2003. On the 28th June 2011 he was nominated by the Pope Benedict XVI as Archbishop of Milan. He officially entered the Archdiocese on the 25th September last year.
His Eminence is a highly regarded academic. He holds double doctorates in Philosophy and Theology, teaching Theological Anthropology at the Pontifical Institute since 1982. He has composed a monograph to Hans Urs Von Balthasar: Hans Urs von Balthasar, a theological style (translated in English). His episcopal motto is «Sufficit gratia tua» (cfr. 2 Cor 12, 9), “Your grace is enough”.
In 1995, Pope John Paul II nominated him Magnificent Rector of the Pontifical Council of the Lateran University in Rome, and as Dean of the Pontifical Institute John Paul II for Studies on Marriage and the family.
In this period he published two volumes on Theological Anthropology Questions of Theological Anthropology and The Human Person: Handbook of Theological Anthropology :
Apart from these books, translated into several languages, Msgr Scola’s bibliography amounts to about 120 contributions in collected works and international theological and philosophical periodicals.
Among his writings over the last few years, the following titles might be singled out: Man-Woman: The serious case for love; Elementary experience. The deep vein of the magisterium of John Paul II; A generative thought; The Eucharist: meeting of freedoms; Who is the Church? An Anthropological and sacramental key to ecclesiology.
Two recent books have been specifically devoted to the themes of plural society: A new secularity. Themes for a plural society, Good reasons for a life in common.
It was another Italian Christian, also well known for his prolific writing, Pope Gregory the Great, who in 573, in Trajan’s Market, is attributed with the words “Non Angli sed Angeli, si forent Christiani” and who famously sent Augustine to Canterbury to evangelise us. Your Eminence, we may not be angels but we will most certainly be attentive as I now give you the floor.