Traces N.8, September 2006

“Liberating” Reason

Final press release for the 27th Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples

Among the over 120 events (“encounters”) at the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples 2006, in Rimini, Italy, one was dedicated to the presentation of the first Arab edition of The Religious Sense by Fr. Giussani, the text that summarizes his thought, his proposal, and the fundamental words of our Western tradition. Speakers at the encounter were Professor Wa’il Farouq of the University of Cairo, and Said Shoaib, a journalist for The Cairo.

Wa’il said, “Reason and realism are two central concepts in Fr. Giussani’s book, which presents two new definitions of these concepts,” and he explained that the Arab root of the word “realism” is “fall from heaven.” “Since events fall from heaven, there is no alternative for man but resignation, and this observation leads to the absence of the freedom of man in his relationship with reality, which is lacking in the structure of Arab consciousness,” thus “amputating” the concept of realism.

Addressing the concept of reasonability, Wa’il said, “In the Arab language, the central meaning of the word reason is ‘to bind, incarcerate, close inside.’ The mind and reason have always been in eternal confrontation with religion, to the point that Islamic fundamentalists accuse intellectuals of apostasy.” He concluded, “This book not only opens new horizons to Arab thought, but it also proceeds toward the creation of a true dialogue between cultures, because in recovering elementary experience, humanity can find this common language to use in dialogue. Through your presence, you have taken the first step toward the other.”

Reason is “incarcerated” in the West as well: reduced to the measure of all things, it ends up in relativism–as Benedict XVI always reminds us–and in nihilism, so that it seems there is nothing worth living for. On the contrary, this year’s Meeting has demonstrated–following the charism of Fr. Giussani–that man’s reason is a “window thrown wide open to reality.” The Meeting contributed to “liberating” reason through the encounters on science, culture, economics, and politics, and exhibits and performances. Through the testimony of those who participated, the Meeting began to unhinge a position that, rejecting an adequate use of reason, becomes fatalism, fideism, and, inevitably, war. Thus, the Meeting was a place of encounter, friendship, and dialogue–in a word, of peace.

The title of the Meeting 2007, which will take place in Rimini from August 19-25, 2007, will explore this further, as it is entitled: “Truth is the destiny for which we have been made.”