Article by Ana Ferreira
On Friday the 2nd of May, IOM organised its very first TandEM interfaith dialogue session at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST).
The event aimed to create a space for active and respectful listening of the perspective of others from different belief systems, and to promote sensitive and respectful dialogue between the students on analysing their own identity and the similarities and differences with others of different cultural and religious backgrounds.
Over 50 people participated in this 2-hour dynamic workshop, kick-started by keynote speeches and followed by an “interfaith café” dialogue, facilitated with the support of youth workers of PRISMS Malta.
Dr. Damian Spiteri set the tone by breaking down some key concepts: identity, culture, religion; what these concepts mean and how they interplay. Dr. Spiteri highlighted we need to adopt an ethno-relative mind set where we recognize that there is a plurality of cultures and that within that plurality we need to find ways to evolve a purposeful co-existence.
In follow up, lived experiences of interfaith dialogue were shared by Fr. Aurelio Mulè Stagno and Imam Bader Zina, both concluding on the importance of coming face to face with a diversity of faiths to lead us first and foremost to relate to each other as human beings. The audience rejoiced hearing the recollections of Ms. Asma Dekna about her own identity formation, her journey of self-discovery that led her to permanently question and constantly evolve in all the dimensions that form who she is.
Using a world café methodology, participants engaged pro-actively and shared their ideas in response to 3 main guiding questions:
1) If you had to describe your religion/belief/value system, what would be the 3 aspects/values that you would highlight? What similarities and differences do you see with the aspects pointed out by the other participants in the group?
2) How do your different identities influence your religious identity? And how does your religious identity influence other aspects of your identity formation?
3) What can we do as individuals to improve relationships between people of different faiths, belief / value systems?
Students reflected that their own values often come from their religious upbringing, even if who they are is an evolving mix of influences. They considered that learning about other religions and spiritual paths is like learning new cultures and this as an important part of construing their own identity. Participants highlighted the importance of keeping an attitude of healthy curiosity about the other as this enhances actual and potential interpersonal relationships.
These were but a few of the interesting points put forward by the young people who actively engaged in this dialogue. A written and a visual report will soon come out on our Facebook page to provide you with a better picture of this fruitful event!
The conclusions of the dialogue were communicated to the whole audience in the presence of His Excellency Dr. George Vella, the President of Malta, who surprised the participants with his attendance to the closing session of the event.
The session was followed up by a moment of cultural exchange through music, in a second edition of our TandEM World Music Jam Sessions at MCAST!