"White Father" Wins UNESCO Prize for Arab Culture

For His Work on Relations Between Christianity and Islam

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PARIS, SEPT. 23, 2005 (Zenit.org).- UNESCO will award a Missionary of Africa the Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture, for his work on improving relations between Christianity and Islam.

Father Michel Lagarde, of the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, will receive the prize Sept. 29 in Paris, announced the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The director-general of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, will be awarding the prize to two laureates on the recommendation of an international jury.

Algerian writer and journalist Tahar Ouettar will also receive the Sharjah prize for contributing «to making Arab literature and language known outside Arab countries,» with his novels translated into numerous languages.

The jury awarded Father Lagarde the prize because «he has dedicated his life, teaching and an important work to the Arab language and the study of the Islamic religion. His works on relations between Christianity and Islam have contributed to mutual respect and the rapprochement of the two cultures.»

In addition, UNESCO stated that the missionary has «contributed strongly to the intercultural dialogue thanks to his profound knowledge of the Arab and Islamic culture through his numerous stays in the Arab and Islamic countries.»

Arabic expert

Of French nationality, Father Lagarde is a professor of Arabic and an expert on classical commentaries of the Koran, stated a biographical note of the Missionary Service News Agency.

Outstanding among his many known studies is the analysis of the monumental 32-volume work, the «Great Commentary» of Fahr al-Din al-Razi, Persian author of the year 1200, which can be described as an encyclopedia of Arab Medieval thought.

He is also known for his translation of the complete work of the 19th century warrior and Sufi mystic Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri, known as «Kitab al-Mawaquif.» The White Father has alternated long years of study with periods of missionary work in Mali.

The Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture recognizes the efforts of a citizen of an Arab country and of a citizen of some other country who by their artistic, intellectual and promotional work have contributed to the growth and diffusion of Arab culture in the world.

The award, an initiative of the United Arab Emirates, was created in 1998, and the first award given in 2002.

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