This year most specialisations at the graduate summer session of Sophia Univeristy Institute (IUS) came from the Department of Political Studies. Ramy Boulos from Egypt with the thesis on Monitoring and Evaluation Systems: Rethinking, Recovering and Reconciling Current Practices; Vanessa Breidy from Lebanon with Pluralisme et Conflicts Culturels Au Liban. Entre Communitarisme Et Conscociativisme Perspectives Pour le Futur (on prospectives of institutional reform in the country); Melchior Nsavyimana from Burundi with Le Soudan du Sud e la Communaute est Africane (on the integration process of Sudan in East South Africa; Vilmar Dal Bo Maccaria from Brazil with O concieto de social segundo o paradigma fraterno a partir do pensamento de Giuseppe Maria Zanghi (on social life and fraternity, with a particular reference to the thought of Zanghi).
Choosing a topic for a thesis is always very demanding. What was your approach?
“There was a big question that was returning to me for some time: What defines the identity of a people? Why does identity still appear as such an irreconcilable contrast? What relationship is there between identity and democracy? The Middle East is still in the midst of a very critical phase that will long determine its appearance. Only three years ago there was talk of an Arab spring, whereas now we are much more cautious about using this term: the line between Arab spring and Arab wars is not as clear as we observe the return of several non-democratic military regimes. Prolonged oppression of minorities, persecutions against those who think differently, rigidity and fundamentalism, vicissitudes that are deeply rooted in history . . . what we see emerging from a combination of confused and at the same time dramatic factors seems to me to be a sad inability to ‘under-stand’ the cultural, ethnic, political and religious diversity that is found in different countries. The theory of democracy is struggling with these unanswered questions, and I think we have to recognise that we still have a long road ahead of us.”
What is the message that comes from your own country of Lebanon?
“John Paul II said that Lebanon was more than a country – that it was a message. And yet, until now the Lebanese have not managed to secure harmonious coexistence amongst the ethnic groups, religious groups and different faces of its inhabitants. The search continues amidst challenges and disappointments. Lebanon has several interesting features that should not be undervalued; but a critical analysis should be allowed to also identify what is lacking so that the values, upon which our coexistence can be built, can be highlighted.”
From where should we begin again?
The high vision of politics that I studied at IUS has given me much hope. I learnt that it is always necessary to choose dialogue, accepting even our fears and ambitions, while aiming for the truth. Each one of us, in our deepest being, is formed by the Other: by the identity of others. In politics, dialogue becomes the true art of understanding and learning.
With this in mind I placed the accent on the question of Good more than Justice, an idea that seems to be making strong headway throughout the Middle East: why not continue following this line after for so long asking what is just has proven to be so unfruitful? I am convinced that, following this path, the Lebanese will also rediscover the fruitfulness of their own message – the peaceful coexistence of different religions and cultures, but especially the dialogue among them, for a new blossoming of service to the Middle East and beyond.