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Religion and Society

Multiculturalism Adieu/2: witness

 

 

Author: Aa. Vv.

 

Title: All’origine della diversità. Le sfide del multiculturalismo

 

Publisher: Guerini e associati / Fondazione per la Sussidiarietà, Milan 2008

 

 

 

 

Multiculturalism, it is known, is one of the most gigantic and complex subjects of our epoch. It determines national policies (in Canada, the United States and Great Britain – where, for that matter, they are rather exhausted), social systems, and mass cultures.

 

 

For a long time the word ‘multiculturalism’ designated an ideal principle, the value of the egalitarian recognition of a collectively expressed and experienced diversity and the political, legislative and institutional choices that flow from it. Ideologically connoted, as the new positive frontier of world thought and political choices, multiculturalism has had grave responsibilities within the greatest of relativist waves: given that criteria of truth do not exist, nothing can be subjected to judgement, one should not speak about a scale of values.

 

 

In recent times a merely denotative meaning has gained ground: one simply notices the existence of very many different cultures and identities, and multiculturalism indicates more than anything else the way things are, and certainly also a question to be solved. In the volume/mine All’origine della diversità. Le sfide del multiculturalismo the term is used varyingly with the two principal meanings and in both cases our interest does not falter and there is no lack of critical suggestions. Edited by Javier Prades (a theologian and lecturer at San Damaso of Madrid) for the series of texts of the Foundation for Subsidiarity, this book brings together various essays which are organised into three sections: ‘Ordering Co-existence’, which addresses the questions connected with law and norms; ‘Understanding Diversity’, which includes the contributions of a philosophical character and cultural theory; and ‘Recognising God as a Common Foundation’, in which is emphasised the role of faith and in particular Christian faith as regards subjects such as the human condition and human relations. This is a volume/mine because each of the numerous contributions proposes an original analysis and is a stimulus to further develop reflection, at times within the same volume, something which makes it a tool of rare efficacy.

 

 

It is easy to discover that underlying themes or ones that are implied in the essays or articles of a juridical character are then fully developed in the next section or that analyses of particular cases (for example the brilliant analysis by John Milbank of the applicability of the sharia in Great Britain or the ‘theological evaluation’ of American diversity by Stanley Hauerwas) suggest a reading of essays in other parts of the volume. Thus this miscellany (in which appear various authors who are known to us, the readers of Oasis, in primis the editor himself) acquires an overall coherence. The reader leafs through a kind of atlas of subjects raised by multicultural globalisation and has available to him a map to be guided through the great question posed by the contemporary world: what happens when different identities encounter each other (and clash)? And what happens to the men who embody such identities? (And from this: what is identity? A delimited platform or a house without doors?) In organising this volume, Prades starts specifically from this incontrovertible ‘fact’, and which concerns Europe in particular, in order to indicate the horizon of this work: ‘The juridical, philosophical and theological interpretation of this fact is more necessary than ever before in order to foster peaceful co-existence’.

 

 

An interpretative work sewn together with a red thread that links together and at the same time supports the contributions, allowing the emergence of what Prades describes as a ‘shared perception of the intangible dignity of man, of society as a place of possible encounter between men, and of God as a decisive factor in the humanisation of personal and social relations’. In this sense, the volume also has a historical value: for the first time scholars from various disciplines have embarked together on an interpretation of multiculturalism beginning with this ‘perception’. One is dealing, therefore, with a cultural initiative which is new and promising because it is collective and because it operates not at the neutral and aseptic level of academic life but at the impassioned and involving level of witness. Which, for that matter, is the subject of the contribution to the volume by Prades himself and of the preface by Cardinal Scola.

 

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