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By Educate Magis
May 29th, 2019

With 6 schools from 4 different countries and 2 experts from different parts of the world this Connected Classroom gave us a sense of what it might be like to engage in Interreligious Dialogue.

Last Thursday we hosted a Connected Class on the topic of Interreligious Education. We were very lucky to have two wonderful experts on the topic facilitating the classroom, sharing their experiences and knowledge and answering questions from the students who participated. The experts who joined us were Fr. Vincent Sekhar SJ, and Fr. Juan Carlos Pallardel, SJ.

Fr. Vincent is originally from India and is now living in San Francisco (where it was 8 am when we started) and Fr. Juan Carlos is originally from Peru and currently living in Pakistan (where it was 8 pm when we started). The schools who participated in the Connected Class were:

Fr. Vincent spoke to us about the fact that religion is very much linked to our sentiments and emotions so it can be quite a personal and sensitive topic. Which is why it is so important to be open-hearted when we speak and learn about religions.

When we talk about Interreligious Education, learning inter-religiously, we refer to learning from different religious traditions – about their beliefs, practices, gods, goddesses, sages, saints, prophets, rituals, worship, ethics, morality, etc.” Fr. Vincent Sekhar SJ

Vincent spoke about how Interreligious Education helps us to see how people of other religions are connected to the world around us (nature, environment), how they see and relate to other people and how they are in the world.

It is important to know and understand your own religion well to be able to engage in positive dialogue with others about their religion and your religion. Interreligious education provides a platform for coming together and for greater understanding, acceptance and tolerance. Interreligious education has a specific goal of building community, of love, of friendship, of sharing. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn from others!” Fr. Vincent Sekhar SJ

Fr. Juan Carlos spoke about his experience of coming from a predominantly Christian country to living in different Muslim countries for the last 10 years and what he has learnt from this experience. He highlighted the importance of listening to others and being curious and open to learning from others.

A curious heart and a curious mind will help us to want to meet, get to know and really listen to people of other faiths and religions. And when we meet these people, we realize that we have many things in common but that we are also different. And when we come to this realization, we have at least two choices; we can run away and stay with what we know, or we take the risk and dare to get to know the other person in their difference. And for this is important to really listen. Fr. Juan Carlos Pallardel, SJ

The students from the different schools took turns asking Vincent and Juan Carlos questions and sharing their observations. The Head Girl from Loyola Jesuit College remarked on the fact that there are many more things to unite us than to divide us. This was something which resonated with her experience at school of being friends with students of other religions.

A student from Colegio San José asked about whether Intercultural Education can help us to become Global Citizens, as Global Citizenship is a ‘hot topic’ in many schools at the moment.

In response to a question from a student in Instituto Lux about what tolerance means, Fr. Juan Carlos shared that while tolerance is an important first step in respecting the other, it is not enough. In order to really engage in Interreligious dialogue and education we need to move beyond tolerance and really come together.

There were other great questions and conversations, for example on how to work with the belief of each religion that their God is the only God.

Throughout the connected class, the importance of listening to others, of being open to others, of trusting others, of learning, sharing and collaborating was highlighted. With 6 schools from 4 different countries and 2 experts from different parts of the world this class gave us a sense of what it might be like to engage in Interreligious Dialogue.

Speaking about the experience,
Ms. Queen Vincent from Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, Nigeria said:

Interacting with the experts and some students of other Jesuit schools around the world felt so surreal! The students were so excited to have been part of the class as it has opened them up to new knowledge and has birthed more curiosity in them thereby strengthening the already established lived dialogue they are experiencing in the boarding school as they share the same space with students from other religions”.

Students from Instituto Lux said:

I like the friendly language that the specialist used”

“I was in shock when they connect the religion with the environment and how we can be a better person if we believe in something. It is amazing that all the different religions and cultures can live in peace”

“For me this conference was helpful because in one hand we could know other people and in the other hand we learn more things listening to different points of view”

“The thing that I liked the most was talking about other types of religions”

Colegio San José shared a short article and a video in Spanish about their perspective of the experience. Click here to read.

Here is a short clip of some interesting conversations during the Interreligious Education Connected Classroom.  Enjoy!

To video this video clip with subtitles in Spanish follow this link Video Aula Conectada en Educación Interreligiosa

Thank you to all the schools who participated in this Connected Class and a special thank you to Fr. Vincent and Fr. Juan Carlos for their time and knowledge. If you are interested in participating in another virtual classroom like this with your students, please leave a comment below!

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