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Vatican funds peace studies at St Andrew’s

To stem the growing mistrust between religious communities, the Vatican has endowed a chair for ‘Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Dialogue’ at St Andrew’s College of Arts, Science and Commerce in Bandra (west), reports Snehal Rebello.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2009 00:51 IST
Snehal Rebello

To stem the growing mistrust between religious communities, the Vatican has endowed a chair for ‘Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Dialogue’ at St Andrew’s College of Arts, Science and Commerce in Bandra (west).

The chair, to be established on January 30, will be the first one that the Vatican has endowed in India.

In concrete terms, this means the college will get Rs 10 lakh a year for the first three years to recruit a team of educators who will offer perspectives of different religions and promote peace through short-term certificate and diploma courses; to hold local and international workshops and seminars; and to conduct research. The college will have to obtain its own funds after that.

“It’s not going to be just bookish knowledge,” said Archbishop Felix Machado, former secretary, Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, who helped set the chair up. “Students will have to see the role they can play to promote peace and national integration.”

The Vatican’s Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation will fund the chair. It has funded similar chairs at institutions in Paris, Moscow, Cairo and Washington DC. Machado hopes the chair at St Andrew’s will eventually become a full-fledged department.

“In a climate of religious intolerance, this is a perfect time to institute this chair,” said Professor Marie Fernandes, principal of St Andrew’s college.

“Students are not aware of other cultures and religions. The chair will attempt will be to bridge the gap between various religious communities.”

“Religion is considered very important in India, but politicians have hijacked it,” said Machado. “The chair should be a catalyst for peace in the city.”