Keeping Politics From Being a Parasite of Religion

Cardinal Emphasizes Importance of Education

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ROME, JUNE 23, 2010 ( Genuine education is the antidote to the exploitation of religion for political ends, according to Cardinal Angelo Scola.

The patriarch of Venice said this in an interview with Vatican Radio, in which he spoke of an address he gave Monday in Lebanon at the sixth meeting of the Oasis International Foundation.

The foundation was considering «Education Between Faith and Culture» at the seminar, held last Monday and Tuesday. It brought together some 70 researchers, professors and Catholic and Muslim leaders.

Cardinal Scola is the founder of the Oasis Foundation, which seeks to promote mutual knowledge among Christians and Muslims.

Participants also heard reflections from Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites; Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Hani Fahs, member of the High Shiite Council of Lebanon; and Mohammed Samaha, secretary-general of the League for Islamic Religious Teaching.

Cardinal Scola affirmed that «education — genuine education — is the real antidote to the risk that politics, political ideology, will become a parasite of religion.»

He explained that at last year’s Oasis conference, the scholars considered tradition. «[W]e saw that tradition is a dead letter if it does not pass through an educational proposal that enables each generation to assimilate tradition, opening itself to the indispensable novelties,» the cardinal said.

Lessons from Lebanon

The patriarch of Venice went on to speak of a concrete case that shows the importance of education: schools in Lebanon.

There, he said, is «the problem of dialogue, of integration, not only between Christians and Muslims but also with the Druzes» as well as the «great diversity of rites» within the Christian community.

Cardinal Scola reflected that the confrontation between different schools has highlighted «very interesting points in addressing the problem of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians, between Westerners and Easterners.»
He added that in Lebanon, «where there are numerous universities and a system of schools that at times is quite advanced, which is that of free school or of the state, there are schools and schools, from which both violent militants and men of peace have come out.»
According to the cardinal, schools are now more decisive than ever. «There are men, not only of a Christian but also of a Muslim focus — to mention two great religions — who are very conscious of the difficult problems that exist.»
«We always return to the same point,» he said. «We must not allow ideology to become a parasite of religion.»
«Religion falls into fundamentalism when the relationship between truth and liberty is not seen clearly, and this happens when political ideology becomes a parasite of religion, uses religion for its own project,» Cardinal Scola stated. «And education, genuine education, is the real antidote to this risk, against the risk that politics, political ideology, will become a parasite of religion.»

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