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Enhance understanding of religions

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When traveling throughout Spain last summer, conducting interviews with Muslim secular leaders for my Political Science thesis, none of my survey questions provoked quite as much thought as this one: Are Muslim and Western values compatible? It seemed that no one had a clear or easy answer. While I’ll save my results for my thesis, I can say that Spanish Muslim elites certainly felt differently than the Spanish population overall. Many westerners felt that Muslim values were in great contrast to their own; Muslims themselves didn’t quite feel that way.

Ignorance of Muslim culture and values, I’m sorry to say, is not merely a Spanish problem. Westerners, including Americans, lack a basic understanding of the differences and, more importantly, the common aspects between western and Muslim cultures and values. Notre Dame provides a perfect example – we have one of the best theology departments in the country, if not in the world, but have only three classes on world religions for spring 2008. Everyone has to take biblical foundations, but there’s no requirement and very little encouragement to take our theological and religious studies beyond that which is embedded in all aspects of Notre Dame, Catholicism. Imagine going to high school and only taking American history – it would certainly impact your understanding of the world.

We at Notre Dame will have an opportunity tonight to broaden our understanding of the religion of more than a billion people worldwide. Archbishop Celestino Migliore will present the Terrence R. Keeley Visiting Vatican Lecture, “Catholicism and Islam: Points of Convergence and Divergence, Encounter and Cooperation,” at 8 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium.

Archbishop Migliore has been the Vatican Permanent Observer to the United Nations since 2002, and his presentation promises to be an enlightening one. Even after all my interviews, I still find my understanding of Islam and what it has in common with Catholicism sadly lacking. I look forward to hearing Archbishop Migliore speak on this very important topic, and I encourage everyone to attend as a way to broaden our view of the world. Hopefully this will be the first of many more events focusing not just on Catholicism, but also on how Catholicism can interact with the rest of the world.

John Grothaus


off campus

Nov. 14