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Religion and Society

Why and for whom a new Oasis office in Milan

On “a clear light day, not obscured by any clouds at all”, as Eusebio di Cesarea writes, the edict was signed by Constantine and Licinius, that initium of freedom which was a gain for all men “freed from the oppression of tyrants”. The story goes that, on that radiant dawn, the two Augustuses signed the edict in the area near what is now the Church of St. George, along Via Torino, in the heart of Milan. Whether it is only a saying or historical fact, the new offices of the Fondazione Internazionale Oasis will be inaugurated right on that spot on 29 April. And whoever works there will see the coincidence with the anniversary of that event as bringing good luck.



Rooted in Venice, where it was established in 2003 by the then Patriarch Scola to support the community of Christians living in countries with a Muslim majority, Oasis is taking a new step, not only a logistic one, so that the Oasis-Milan relationship might become even deeper. But why and for whom is this novelty? There are two basic reasons: one historical, contingent, the other that sinks its roots into the new challenges which Oasis sets out to give an answer to.



The contingent reason is to be found in an item of news: the transfer of the president of Oasis who became the Archbishop of Milan. One of the criteria of the work of Oasis is that of supporting real situations, for which reason this ‘passage’ could not remain unrelated to it.



Oasis will stay in Venice, which by its vocation tends to look towards the East, but it is also opening in Milan which has experienced all the wounds and opportunities created by the impact with the ‘mestizo of civilisations and cultures’. Here it is evident that the meeting with the Muslim world has considerable influence, and it suffices to think of the Muslim communities in the city and the ten-year-long work of organisations like the CADR of don Giampiero Alberti, Paolo Branca and many others.



While this is the contingent reason, the theoretical one emerged from some research work. Back in 2011, when it became interested in the ‘unexpected events’ in Africa and the Arab spring, Oasis found itself face to face with a fact: there is no difference between us and the Muslims in the problems we have. Tthe same essence of the issues fuelling the debate in the West could be recognised in the claim for freedom of the young people in the squares of Tunis and Cairo.



The face to face of Oasis with these questions and the attempt of the peoples of the revolutions to give themselves democratic institutions without betraying their own religious tradition, with all the weight of contradictions and possible drifts, showed how relevant the experience of the Christians for the Muslims and vice versa can be. Oasis felt spurred on to document the expediency of the reciprocal knowledge between East and West, of narrating while letting oneself be narrated. While in the East its network of relations has now been well established, as shown by the international committees held in Tunis with the curfew, in Amman, Beirut and Cairo, the need has now arisen for a greater penetration in the West. In this goal, Milan, one of the decisive cities for the future, the ‘middle earth’, the advanced point in the heart of Europe, the crossroads of cultures, is proposed as the ideal place from which to set off to broaden Oasis’s horizons.



To turn the attention more to the West and what the increasing number of Muslims entails for it. For this reason Oasis needs Milan and the Milanese, in order to achieve a deeper and deeper dialogue with this reality.