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Religion and Society

East and West no longer so far away from each other

Cardinal Onaiyekan, who with that powerful voice of his spoke of the blood being shed in his land by the Boko Haram madness. Msgr. Lahham, bishop of Amman, who gave his account of the presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees in his country from all the neighbouring countries, above all Syria, who risk bringing it to total collapse.



Msgr. Daccache, rector the Saint Joseph University of Beirut, who expressed concern for his country where violent sectarian clashes are flaring up again. They, together with other figures coming also from Asia, Europe and the United States, were the protagonists of the Oasis Committee, which chose Milan as the venue of its tenth edition. Not to use this capital of the West as a ‘laboratory’ for intellectualistic and abstract experiments, removed from reality, but to join in the real experience of a plural city, in which the very theme chosen for the meeting is to be seen at different levels in daily life and public spaces: ‘On the ridge: Christians and Muslims between secularism and ideology’.



And right in this venue in the state university, one of the theses of Oasis seems to have found confirmation, that is, that the problems being experienced in the East and West are not so distant, since the boundaries are now as if mixed (and become a mestizo).


During the work, characterised by scientific papers and personal accounts, perhaps for the first time in this measure a common grammar emerged, used to affirm that, in the end, the man of today at any latitude whatsoever cannot live without taking into account the question of the ‘religious’ factor; whoever attempts, voluntarily or not to do away with it, mutilates society itself.



The speeches of figures like Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian political commentator living in Canada because he was persecuted and tortured in his country, or Jawad al- Khoei, who comes from Najaf, the holy city of the Shiites in Iraq, or the French philosopher Brague, reflecting on the key words like secularism-secularisation-ideology, contributed to mapping out a framework that led Cardinal Scola to observe in his conclusions that everyone, Christians and Muslims, ‘must have the courage to show the advantage, the great correspondence of religious experience with the thirst for truth, kindness and beauty which is in the man of today, secularised or not that he may be’. Man, remarked the Archbishop of Milan and President of Oasis, cannot live even five minutes without taking into account the religious dimension of his life ‘as the question of the sense is fundamental insofar as it makes the final questions on life emerge, which one can never avoid’.



Undoubtedly it is a question of asking oneself – and Oasis’s action also looks towards this horizon – about what elementary and religious experience is.


The continuous repeating of debates on the breakdown of the family, the lack of work, offers a pathway: they are issues that concern man’s life. They touch his very flesh.


For this reason ‘we have an action to be carried out in public’, the archbishop reminded the friends from all over the world of Oasis: to refuse the neutralisation of the religious that a certain type of concept of power is attempting to pursue, in Europe and in the Middle East, where the Islamisation processes are also indirectly hit by this disease which is secularism. And to witness the advantage of faith.



And what our plural societies seem to need is therefore not all homogeneous men but Christians and Muslims who are so to the core, taking on the all-round religious experience of faith. But this is possible when a person experiences the reality of this discourse. That is, when a Christian perceives and experiments Jesus Christ as the concrete singular universal in their life. Here is the decisive turning point.



Presumptuous: some have defined the title of the Oasis committee this year as such, and perhaps they were right. But thanks to those who had a prominent role in this, starting with their personal experience, the multilingual event reserved for the members of Oasis and the Milanese who desired to take part in it, a radical provocation with which to continue to measure oneself.