The Vatican has produced a document underlining the importance of promoting intercultural dialogue in Catholic schools.
Entitled “Educating in intercultural dialogue in the Catholic school. Living together for a civilisation of love”, the Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, stressed the need for education in deepening understanding of other cultures and thereby promoting peace.
“A child, a teacher, a book, and a pen can change the world. Education is the only solution” said Cardinal Grocholewski, quoting Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl injured by the Taliban for attending school, along with other girls.
He mentioned that, according to data provided by UNICEF in 2013, over 70 million children worldwide do not go to school, that 75% of students in the poorest countries may attend lessons for two or three years without learning to read or write, and that around 1.7 million teachers are needed to meet the aim of a qualified primary education at a global level.
The Congregation for Catholic Education shares the concerns of the international community, he added, “convinced of the pivotal role of education for the future of humanity, peace, sustainable development and the dignity of populations.”
“Throughout the years [education] has contributed to deepening the understanding of various issues, which have subsequently found expression in the documents offered to the local Churches, the Religious Congregations of an educational charism, and to other entities and associations in the sector,” he said.
But he added that educating in intercultural dialogue is now very current, if not new. “The male and female religious congregations know a lot about this”, Cardinal Grocholewski observed. “For years they have worked in multicultural and multi-religious contexts, with laudable experience of education and training. However, today the significant phenomenon of migration has globalised multi-culturalism and multi-religious co-existence, with the consequent need for adequate cultural education. In such a context, the Catholic school is called to provide younger generations with the necessary elements to develop an intercultural vision of living together”.
The Vatican said the document is intended primarily for parents, entities representing the family and schools and those occupied with education in the pastoral field. “Given its vastness, it was decided to present the issue of education in intercultural dialogue within a broader context,” he said. “For this reason it was extended, for example, to reflection on the relationship between culture and religion, Catholic religion and other religions.”
He said the key world that draws together all the aspects considered in the document is “dialogue”. “Dialogue is fervently promoted by Pope Francis as the attitude with which the Church must face every situation in today’s world,” he said. “And for the Catholic school to fulfil a constructive role, it must not weaken its identity, but instead must strengthen it, and must certainly not allow its mission to be separated from evangelisation”.
The final aim of education in intercultural dialogue”, the cardinal concluded, “is the construction of a civilisation based on love.”
Archbishop Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the dicastery, said many entities, religious institutes and dioceses across the world were consulted in drafting the document. He noted that educational approaches taken in Africa, Amazonia and Peru “include a dimension of assistance to development, and several initiatives are directed at girls, who are often more easily excluded from the school system”.
He also recalled the efficacy of a “multi-ethnic” Catholic school in the Balkans in developing a “peaceful mentality and a rounded education” and that In the Middle East 45 Catholic schools of the Latin Patriarchate “carry out patient and tireless work with students of various nations and religions, who learn about one another and discover how to build relationships of respect and friendship”.
“Each of these experiences enables us to understand, in a concrete way, how diversity of religion, language and tradition can be treated with care and respect, with true evangelical charity, and become an authentic asset for every group and individual,” he said.
“In each of these schools we see an approach which enables each person to contribute his or her own gifts in the construction of ‘bridges of understanding and peace’ and a destiny based on love as an ideal to be achieved”.
On the ZENIT website:
Text of Cardinal Grocholewski’s presentation