On 19 December 2013, the Congregation for Catholic Education of the Holy See has published a major document entitled: Educating for intercultural dialogue in the Catholic school : living together for a civilization of love. Addressing the educational communities of the 57,700,000 catholic students in the world in 207670 schools, this 32-page document invited to promote dialogue between cultures and other religions in the catholic schools while reaffirming our Christian identity.
It proposes in chapter 5 to transform our school so that they become LABORATORIES OF INTER-CULTURAL DIALOGUE. Such reflection is timely at the moment where the Kleopas project in our Mauritian diocesan education sector embarks on the reassessment of the conditions for transmission of the Gospel within our schools and colleges, rooted inside a society living plurality of religions and cultures. Our schools are already pluri-religious by their students’ and teachers’ population. (The totality of the document may be downloaded from the Vatican web site vatican.va).
Multiculturalism is an indisputable given table in the world today. The fundamental question lies in our ability to enter into a genuine dialogue that allows a healthy integration of different cultures. The document identifies three ways of relating to plurality in our world :
+ The relativistic approach promotes neutrality and tolerance. It presupposes respect for differences without trying to promote productive exchange and true dialogue between cultures. (Mauritian way).
+ The assimilationist approach accepts religious &cultural differences provided that minority cultures make an effort to adapt, even to melt themselves into the ambient and dominant culture.. This model leads to the disappearance of particular cultures and religions inside for instance the laity : (probably the French model of society)
+ The intercultural approach in an educational perspective, inherently involves a real and fruitful dialogue having « at its starting point, the deep awareness of the specific identity of the various belongings. » It promotes reciprocal transformation ,makes it possible to live together and realize the integration of cultures in mutual recognition.
We see this document as a fundamental guide for our plural Mauritian society which encounters much difficulties in inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. Since Independence in 1968, the mauritian plural society has adopted the relativistic approach. The power-game between religious belongings at political and economical levels do not help in this dialogue. Outburst of violence in 1968 and 1999 reminded us that in spite of appearance, Mauritius has a long way to go in this field. We would like catholic schools to be laboratories of this dialogue right from the school benches. Citizenship in a plural society has to be taught, learned, and practiced. This project will have to operate a revolution of mind and shall have to mobilize considerable human resources.
Father Jean Maurice Labour,
Vicar General. Roman catholic Diocese of Port Louis