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Religion and Society

Oasis in Amman, people curious about the world

Greg Soetomo

A bright and sunny day welcomed the Oasis meeting in Amman last June. More than 70 people of every nationality coming from everywhere met for three days to talk about religious freedom. Before they got down to business they spent a whole day visiting some of the country's most historically significant locations like Mount Nebo, Madaba and Gerash . . . . The outing gave them an opportunity to get to know each other and engage in one-to-one conversations. This created an atmosphere of friendship and mutual curiosity.


In the bus that took us to the various locations Card Angelo Scola, Oasis' founder sat next to me. He asked me about Indonesia and its main problems, about the government and its relationship to the country's various religions, about Catholic schools that are open to Muslim pupils and the Theology University that has many Muslim students. And it was right at that moment that for me Oasis began its deliberations, in his curiosity and questions about my country and in my answers about relations between minorities and majorities, about how Christians live, about the actual opportunity Muslims have to convert to Catholicism and of Catholics to convert to Islam.


There and then I realised what this international study centre was all about, namely a world-wide network of people who, starting from their different experiences and their own curiosity, seek to promote mutual understanding among cultures, religions and nations, putting themselves on the line, trying to go beyond clichés, superficial facts and biases about, for instance, my country, Indonesia. Of course, in my archipelago bad things do happen, there are clashes and violence, but I cannot ignore the fact that those who stand by Christian churches to defend them happen to be moderate Muslims.


The spirit of tolerance or pluralism might not have been on the agenda in Amman; religious freedom, a deeper and more complex issue, was. But when the cardinal "interviewed" me, the journalist, I was able to get into the nitty-gritty of the conference. Really that was a fruitful moment that made me understand the meaning of Oasis as a community.

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