Pontificia Università Gregoriana
Laurent Basanese: ‘Fraternity must overcome many stages and prejudices’
Interview. Professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Laurent Basanese, will speak at the webinar on October 27 on the theme “The challenges of universal fraternity”. On this occasion, he reflects on his journey.
How did you come to work in Islamic studies and what are your teaching and research subjects?
Laurent Basanese: I have been working on Islam and Islamic-Christian relations for about twenty years. All this started with learning Arabic in 2003, when I was sent to Egypt by my religious superiors. I continued my studies up to the thesis in Rome and Paris, focusing on Eastern Christians (in particular the figure of Elie de Nisibe, an important Nestorian bishop, already “in dialogue” with the Muslim intellectuals of his time) and Ibn Taymiyya, the inspirer of many fundamentalist movements to this day (and he too “in dialogue”, in his own way, with all the political and religious currents of the 13th-14th century). My teaching and research subjects always focus on issues of encounter, intellectual debate, and living together in a complex world.
Can you tell us about the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue?
The Dicastery for interreligious dialogue was founded during the Second Vatican Council, almost 60 years ago, even before the publication of Ecclesiam Suam (the great encyclical of “dialogue” by Paul VI) and before the Conciliar Declaration Nostra aetate on the Church’s relations with non-Christian religions. This service of the Holy See aims to create links with people and religious institutions that are not Christian, with the exception of Judaism which has a dedicated commission. Our job is to ensure that dialogue takes place in an attitude of respect and esteem, in order to promote “a true search for God” with everyone. Practically, we receive many Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh delegations… Conferences and visits are organized at the Vatican or in predominantly Muslim or Buddhist countries, etc. In addition to the bishops, we are also solicited by religious leaders of all denominations when official words on interreligious dialogue are expected.
You will be speaking at the October 27 webinar “The Challenges of Universal Brotherhood”. What will be your approach?
The challenges of human fraternity are great, in a changing and often conflictual world. For my part, it will be a matter of showing how the goal of fraternity must go through many stages and prejudices. This will hardly be possible without a reform of education and training. Not to fear otherness, without falling into naivety, is a challenge that cannot be met without a mental conversion that will take time to put in place, personally and collectively, to understand that identity and dialogue are not opposed. Openness to the other (dialogue, encounter) is an integral part of human and Christian identity.
Interview conducted by Raphaël Georgy.