Bossey students celebrate graduation
23 August 2016
On a sunny, hot afternoon on the grounds of the 18th-century Château de Bossey, 17 young people from across the world gathered for their graduation ceremony in the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Interreligious Studies from the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey.
The ceremony was the culmination of a six-week course aimed at an international audience of young people from the three so-called Abrahamic religions. The students are either interested in or already engaged in interreligious dialogue. Significantly, this was the first year that the course has been accredited by the University of Geneva under the Swiss Higher Education Programme for Continuing Education. The course, which evolved over the years as “Building an Interfaith Community,” is organized in close collaboration with the World Council of Churches programme on interreligious dialogue and the Geneva-based Muslim and Jewish partners, Fondation de l’Entre-connaissance and Fondation Racines et Sources.
Students completed a core course on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, with a particular focus this year on the theme of migration. They also attended interreligious workshops, which used practical exercises of spiritual sharing and scriptural reasoning. Students also enjoyed interreligious study visits that offered an overview on the way of practice, organization or spiritual life of the work of the three religions.
Rev. Fr Dr Lawrence Iwuamadi, vice-dean of the Ecumenical Institute, commended the students’ dedication and openness. Further remarks were given by Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, professor of ecumenical theology; Dr Clare Amos, World Council of Churches programme executive for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation; and by Sheikh Hafid Ouardiri, director of the Inter-Knowing Foundation. All spoke of the commitment of the students and expressed their gratitude for the contributions they had made and will make as a result of attending the course.
The students contributed with a representative from each of the three faiths reading a joint message the group had written titled “People and Faith on the Move.” The message focused on the vital links for understanding and love for the three religions.
Janne Hauger from Norway spoke on behalf of all the students and thanked the staff for their generous support and help, citing the “incredible atmosphere” of the Ecumenical Institute. She said that the course had been “above and beyond students’ expectations” and that the learning could not have taken place without the hard work of everyone, students and staff alike. She described the fun that the students had, which included “getting soaked by Geneva’s famous Jet D’eau and dancing in coffee breaks.” She presented a large card and photo created by the students to Iwuamadi and Amos which included a drawing of the tree of peace and messages from all the students. This was followed by the more earthly gift of a box of chocolates. Hauger concluded by saying that as “peacemakers, change-makers and bridge-builders, we are who are because of who we all are.”
In his words to the students, Dr Martin Robra, programme executive for Ecumenical Continuing Formation at the WCC, spoke about the major issue that faces all who wish to understand other religions: that of diversity. He pointed out that if “we shall discover things we never knew, we must start centering ourselves.” He further elaborated that to “embrace diversity and not be afraid of it” one had to develop the capacity to both listen and receive. He made the fascinating point that sometimes it is more difficult to receive than to give, “because you have to be less powerful. Making ourselves open for the other, making ourselves vulnerable is difficult.”
Young people reflect on interreligious studies (WCC press release of 23 August 2016)