Lidasan: Inter religious dialogue through academic partnership

BANDUNG, Indonesia -- Last August 15, Monday, the Ateneo de Davao University (Addu) and the Universitas Islam Bandung (Unisba) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for academic partnership. Rev. Father Joel Tabora, SJ, President of AdDU, and Prof. Dr. dr. M. Taufiq Siddiq Boesoirie, M.S. Rector of Unisba represented their universities and were happy in forging this MOU.

This partnership aims to expand collaboration on education and research. It also has a multi targeted objectives and has been developed to promote deeper inter religious dialogue (IRD) between the two universities.

This partnership supports the creation, development and sustainability of high quality programs that leads to delivery of academic excellence and promotion of IRD. It aims to support students and faculty to engage, embed and accelerate the level of understanding between Christianity and Islam in the field of social sciences, economics, and finance.

Based on the mandate of Al Qalam Institute in terms of IRD, this MOU signing is a milestone event. It brings together a Catholic university and an Islamic university to establish concrete actions for collaborations.

Initially, the partnership agreement focuses on Islamic Economics and Finance. However, we also believe that this may connect to other fields of education and formation of students in both universities.

With regard to Islamic economics, Muslim scholars believe that long before the merchants of Venice in the 1500s, Muslims in the European Middle Ages conducted business as far and wide as Spain and China.

With the Quran’s 370-odd references to commerce, Islamic law (which some would term the Shariah) provided Muslim merchants with a moral compass on how to make investment decisions; these teachings can also be reflected upon in our modern corporate world.

Hence, if we connect this to the global Muslim population of around 1.6 billion, an Islamic financial industry must be developed to provide an alternative approach to finance.

This approach traces the commonality of Judaeo-Christian-Islamic traditions on the shared principle of prohibition of usury or riba.

Muslim scholars also believe that Islamic teachings on the economy bear a great deal of similarity with Catholic Social Teachings and Social Gospel ideology.

From workers’ rights, environmental justice, animal welfare, or good corporate practice, Islam has much to contribute towards the challenges facing the economy today. (quoted from Samir Safar-Aly of the Corporate Examiner)

Looking at the global complexities of the challenges for justice in the economy and sustainability of life, we need to have an inter religious and interfaith economic dialogue in Asia and the Pacific that can help promote the common good of all human race. This partnership is rooted to this principle.

Prior to the MOU signing, Fr. Tabora was invited as keynote speaker for the Unisba’s annual students' presentation of their research work. For this year’s event, the theme was, "The Role of The Students' Research Paper in Improving Their Competitiveness.”

There were more than one hundred students from different colleges of Unisba that attended the said activity.

In his message, Fr. Tabora said, "Your university operates as an Islamic University; my university operates as a Catholic and Jesuit university. Our universities are different. But both of our universities share the same threefold commitment to truth. We exist to help our students to learn truth. We exist to share truth with the societies which we serve. We exist through research to discover truth.” This describes that the dialogue of both universities is deeply rooted on finding the commonality of both religions.

The MOU signing was then followed by an executive meeting of the deans and academic officials of Unisba with Fr. Tabora and the representatives from Addu. There were many important points discussed during the meeting.

Initial points of agreements include the following: Faculty exchanges: Islamic Studies, Shariah Economics, English Language, Bahasa Language Programs, International Student Exchanges Program (for 6 months to 1 year), Pesantrean (Muslim Students Retreat that combines Ignatian and Islamic spiritual exercises), and Certificate Program for Islamic Economics, Finance, and Banking.

Al Qalam Institute is part of the Ateneo de Davao University with its primary function is to establish spaces for dialogue: inter religious, interfaith, and intra dialogue. We bring dialogue of religions and faith at the level of research and action.

Fr. Tabora believes that, “a huge research agenda not only for our young researchers but for our university communities which we might embrace in academic freedom and responsibility.”

He concluded his message saying, “I would be thrilled if Unisba and Ateneo de Davao might truly collaborate in its pursuit. Let us collaborate to advance greater understanding between our peoples of diverse religions worshiping but one God; to understand how God can rule us even in the manner in which we use money; to understand the richness of our languages and cultures, and the importance of our indigenous spiritualities and heritages in helping us sustain our world and advance a sustainable shared human culture”.
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