The Sophia University Institute in Loppiano (FI), Italy was established in honour of Chiara Lubich (founder of the Focolare Movement) in 2008 after her death.
The relationship between the university and the Shia Scholars started long before it became a university. Hujjatul-Islam Dr Muhammad Ali Shomali’s first visit took place back in 1999. These meeting represent the foundation of a long friendship and dialogue. Discussions varied from talking about Sophia [Latin word for Wisdom] to the future of humanity. From the discussion between the university academics and Shi’a scholars it soon became clear that they had many common ideas about unity and inter-religious dialogue that could be developed in practical projects.
Dr Shomali’s recent visit to the university took place in February 2015, where he held public as well as informal meetings with staff and students. Following that meeting Dr Shomali was invited by the president of the university Prof. Msgr. Coda Piero to return to the university and teach a course to MA students which was scheduled to start in 2016. The course which is based on inter-religious dialogue was for the first time to be taught by lecturers from different religious traditions in order to share similar experiences and ideas.
Dr Shomali delivered his first lecture during a four-hour morning and afternoon session in April 2016. He talked about his personal involvement in inter-religious dialogue, presenting a brief summary of his twenty-year rich experience in the field of interfaith. A part of his discussion was also about Shia Islam and the foundation for dialogue according to Shia Islam. Dr Shomali further spoke about the importance of inter-religious dialogue and the future of humanity based on unity.
Following this academic engagement, the plan is to have a three-day programme in July 2016 [after the month of Ramadhan]. The university president Prof. Coda Piero and Dr Shomali will be discussing subjects related to unity between different faith groups, Muslim and Christians in particular and some of the ideas can be actualised in the near future.
Hujjatul-Islam Dr Shomali will be taking a group of scholars in the next encounter to present the Muslim Shia perspective while Prof. Coda Piero will lead the Catholic/ Focolare Movement side.
“The April meeting was a fruitful meeting. After many years of friendship and talk, the two groups are now ready to move into more focused, scholarly but at the same time spiritual discussion on unity and cooperation,” said Dr Shomali.
Originally Published on Issue 36 June 2016
Islam Today issue 65 (Special Issue) is dedicated to the interfaith work undertaken by the Islamic Centre of England over the past few years. Download the full Pdf here: