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(ANS – Rome) – On the afternoon of Saturday 4th August the Study Days on Salesian Presence among the Muslims drew to a close. About fifty members of the Salesian Family took part in five days of intense work including listening, discussion and planning ways ahead. They drew up a ‘Road Map’ for the next few years in a mission field which is very significant today.
The conference was promoted by the SDB and FMA Missions departments. Thirty three Salesians, eleven Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, one Charity of Jesus sister, two Apostles of the Holy Family and one lay collaborator took part.
There were presentations from three lecturers at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI): Fr Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot MCCJ, recently appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (Christian-Muslim relations in the past: challenges and opportunities for today), Professor Francesco Zannini (Christian witness as a prophetic presence) and Fr Maurice Borrmans (How to dialogue with Muslims as faithful witnesses to Christ: dialogue and proclamation).
Talks were also given by Fr Alfred Maravilla (The Catholic Church and Islam according to the documents of Vatican II) and Fr Maria Arokiam Kanaga, Regional Councillor for South Asia (Significance, opportunities and challenges of Salesian presence among Muslims). Resources and examples of good practice were provided, such as the material for Catholic schools in France (The Muslim in a Catholic School), experiences from the Henry Martyn Institute for inter-religious dialogue in Hyderabad India, which has been operating since 1930, and the book by Fr Christian Troll SJ, Muslim Questions and Christian Answers, available in eight languages.
Other events helped the participants to work in an ecclesiastical atmosphere: a visit to the Vatican (Redemptoris Mater Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica), a meeting with Archbishop Hon Tai Fai SDB, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, and the publication of the Vatican message to Muslims before the end of Ramadam 2012, signed by Cardinal Tauran ‘Educating young Christians and Muslims to justice and peace’.
Two facilitators proved useful at a methodological level, Fr Pergiorgio Gianazza and Sr Runita Borja. By providing summaries of newspaper articles they sped up the formulation of the final document indicating the way ahead in the next five years, a ‘Road Map’ based on five main themes: spirituality and motivation, training of Salesian and lay collaborators, an educational and pastoral programme for the young, dialogue and proclamation, networking, terminology and communication.
At the end of the conference Fr Václav Klement, General Councillor for the Missions, met the Salesian participants and gave some practical suggestions to be sent to the Provinces to raise awareness and continue networking, especially in the thirty Provinces working in a Muslim context.
At the final Mass, Don Pascual Chàvez thanked everyone for their faith and apostolic commitment. He gave three strong reasons for persevering with a presence which was not always easy, but very significant: being obedient to the command of the Lord Jesus to be witnesses to the furthest corners of the world, believing in the Gospel which leavens, purifies and transforms every culture, and being faithful to Don Bosco who wanted to reach out to all the young people in the world through education.
The texts of the talks given by the three PISAI lecturers are available in Mission section of sdb.org. Materials produced during the conference can be found in the AGORA on sdb.org.