Dialogue between religions is the focus of the second and third sessions of the First Cordoba Forum

Córdoba, May 16, 2022. Representatives of different religious beliefs have shared their experiences and their views on interreligious dialogue during the second and third sessions of the First Cordoba Forum ‘From Islam-Christian Dialogue to the Abrahamic Family’, which is being held on May 16 and 17 at Casa Árabe’s headquarters in Cordoba.

Dr. Francisco Javier Fernández Vallina, professor of Hebrew and Aramaic Studies at the Complutense University of Madrid, was in charge of moderating the second session of the First Cordoba Forum.

The first speaker in this second session was Dr. Emilio González Ferrín, professor of Islamology and Arab Studies at the University of Seville. Dr. González Ferrín explained the different models of interpretation that exist in contemporary Islamology and opted for the third one: the historical-critical method, which carries out a coherent scientific reading of the Koranic text and the literature of the Islamic sciences.

The speaker made a distinction between the religion of Islam (which should be written with a lower case), the civilization of Islam (with a capital letter) and contemporary Muslim societies. All three coincide in the ethic of the liberation of peoples.

“The culture of Islam was the guardian civilization in the preservation of arts, letters and sciences between the 8th and 15th centuries,” he asserted.

He also rejected the stereotype of Islamic conquest, which has been very pernicious to the perception of Islam throughout history: “the foundational myth states that Christianity spread through the travels of the apostles; Judaism, through the diaspora; and Islam, by force of arms. But the reality is that all three spread equally, on the basis of widespread acceptance on the basis of some readings.”.

For his part, Father Juan Buades Fuster, a graduate in Law and Theology, assigned to the Jesuit Migrant Service, explained the experience of the Abrahamic family during his pastoral and social life.

Father Buades began his talk by quoting the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, with which he distinguishes between the carnal and spiritual filiation of Abraham: “Children of Abraham are those who live by faith”.

For the speaker, there is a second sense of Abrahamic familiarity, insofar as the three religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, share the same references, more or less extensive, in the sacred texts.

Among the many anecdotes he told about his period of training in the Arabic language and in Islam, the different approach to him, the only Catholic in the classes he attended at the Central Mosque of Madrid, stands out: the Spanish converts reaffirmed the contrast of what they had left behind, while the Muslims showed their curiosity and took the opportunity to ask him questions about some Christian dogma.

The third speaker of the session was Venerable Kutsab Jamyang Dorje, spiritual master and regent of the Sakya Tashi Ling religious community. The speaker confessed that he felt “privileged” to have been invited to this forum and pointed out that “I am convinced of the importance of dialogue between religions, and the FICRT Foundation has shown a very innovative and disruptive approach to interreligious dialogue.

Kutsab Jamyang Dorje explained his personal journey and his conversion to Buddhism at the age of 14, despite which he has not disavowed the principles and values of Christianity, which he learned during his first 14 years, and which are universal.”

The speaker pointed out that the misfortunes and setbacks of life are common to everyone, regardless of their particular habits and customs: “society is changing, access to the sources of spirituality requires adaptations, with a common action, space and language, so as not to repeat the unfortunate episodes of history to which human stubbornness and stupidity have led us”..

According to Dorje, “the renunciation and commitment to peace, respect and values that we know and integrate, also requires a social transformation, which also requires an individual transformation, which is the responsibility of each one of us”.

Third session

The 1st Cordoba Forum “From Islam-Christian Dialogue to the Abrahamic Family”, organized by the FIRCT Foundation at Casa Árabe, continued its afternoon session with a new panel that highlighted interreligious dialogue and coexistence in different countries, such as Argentina, Morocco or Indonesia.

Moderated by Pilar Garrido, professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Murcia, the session began with Dr. Susana Brauner, professor at the National University of Tres de Febrero in Argentina, who spoke about interreligious dialogue in Argentina as a model of coexistence. The professor made a historical tour from the late nineteenth century to the present and the situation of Catholics, Jews and Muslims, in which she highlighted the decline of Catholics, between 1960, with 90%, and 2014; the high visibility of Jews in different social spheres in the 60s; and of Muslims, from the 80s and 90s.

Regarding the beginnings of the Jewish-Christian dialogues, he affirmed that they took place before the Second Vatican Council and were strengthened in the 1960s, with the most progressive people of both confessions being the actors: priests, pastors and rabbis who opposed the violation of rights during the dictatorship. He also stated that it was after the 1992 and 1994 attacks that the religious dialogues were formalized.

Dr. Tijani Boulaouali, professor at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), also participated and defended the figure of Abraham “as the meeting point for the followers of monotheistic religions”, both in times of war and peace. For this professor, Abraham will be present throughout history even in digital times when many deny religion. “Abraham appears as a symbol of sacrifice, of unity, of brotherhood,” said the professor, for whom the theme of this meeting, Abrahamic brotherhood, means rapprochement in a pluralistic society.

He also defended pluralism as an opportunity and not as a threat. He also spoke of Morocco as a place where Christians, Muslims and Jews coexist; and of the Arab Emirates, where there is a Ministry of Tolerance.

Dr. Muhammad Naijb, Indonesian Ambassador to Spain, who gave a lecture on “The Abrahamic Family in East Asia”, emphasized the importance of this forum as a defense of peace, regardless of religion. The ambassador, who explained the main features of his country, highlighted as one of its characteristics the unity of diversity, “which is the essence of its identity”.

The ambassador explained the differences between secular nationalism and religious nationalism in Indonesia, but mainly wanted to emphasize the existing tolerance understood as “respect for others and effort to understand the other”. The day concluded with a guided visit by the speakers and guests to various monuments in the city of Cordoba, related to the three religions, including the Mosque, the Cathedral and the Synagogue.