Global Compact on Education: Together to look beyond
The “Together to look beyond” event on Thursday 15 October at the Pontifical Lateran University showcased the Global Compact on Education. Organized by the Congregation for Catholic University, the meeting highlighted the need for worldwide change in the field of education.
The Global Compact on Education event, promoted by Pope Francis was scheduled for 14 May, but had to be postponed due the pandemic, and like so many other events had also to change its format. In this case, the “Together to look beyond” meeting took place on Thursday 15 October as an intermediary stage, to underline the urgency for a global compact on education, and the care and attention the Pope has for education.
The meeting was held in the ‘Aula Magna’ of the Pontifical Lateran University and transmitted live on the Vatican News Youtube channel . It opened with a formal greeting from Lateran Rector Prof. Vincenzo Buonomo, and a video message from Pope Francis in which he emphasized the urgency for “a pluralistic and multifaceted process in which all of us can work to provide meaningful responses, in which diversity and methods are harmonized in the pursuit of the common good”.
Pope Francis proposes seven points of commitment which aim to respond to many issues of today’s world: the throwaway culture, a culture of segregation, of racial discrimination, indifference between generations, failure to listen, political and economic corruption, and climate change.
His speech was full of hope and an invitation to “we must move forward, all of us together, each as we are, but always looking ahead to the building of a civilization of harmony and unity, in which there will be no room for the terrible pandemic of the throw-away culture”.
The meeting continued with contributions from Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi and Archbishop Angelo Vincenza Zani, Prefect and Secretary respectively of the Congregation for Catholic Education. They outlined significant stages in the process resulting in the Global Compact on Education. The Congregation started organizing international conferences in September 2019 to reflect on the various aspects of the Compact, in collaboration with a number of universities, academies and study centres. These conferences covered themes such as democracy, peace, ecology, intergenerational and inter-religious dialogue, in-service learning, formation in international cooperation, and a seminar in Abu Dhabi to study the document signed on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi between the Pope and the Grand Imam Al-Azhar. Educational institutions and projects carried out a range of initiatives, creating original experiences which will be shared in the coming months.
Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay outlined the global educational crisis, exacerbated by the pandemic, which has kept over one and a half billion pupils out of their classrooms. “Society needs to make a new commitment to a new education, as the Pope has called for: education which is global, shared, integral. […] Peace is built above all through our minds,” she said and continued, “Unesco works every day for this. For quality and continuing learning, free of prejudice, which promotes a common sensitivity”.
In a powerful address, sociologist Silvia Cataldi of “La Sapienza” University in Rome, stressed,
This Compact will work if we, as educationalists and not only as academics, change completely, and turn to the true meaning and sense of culture, which comes from the word “to cultivate”, which means also taking care of something, of loving. And if we speak of love, we’re not speaking of the head, we’re certainly speaking of the heart. And love has an eminently practical dimension. This is something fundamental. Education is first of all caring, and as Hannah Arendt says, daily caring is a revolutionary act.
Two students gave valuable contributions: Hiro Tanaka, a Buddhist from Japan e Amen Mohammed Sahnouni, a Muslim from Algeria, both currently studying at the Sophia University Institute at Loppiano, Florence.
“I live dialogue between religions as a Buddhist. I feel encouraged by the Pope’s invitation. I’ve understood that the Compact on Education helps to respond to the most urgent challenges, because we are all called to generate harmony and alliance between different persons and institutions. This calls for listening between the generations, but also among all components of society,” said Hiro Tanaka. “In my personal experience with Christian and Muslim sisters and brothers, I experience how unity in diversity is like a calling to be in relationship with each other. If we are able to be more transparent and make ourselves empty in order to welcome the others, we can grow more together. It’s a communitarian journey towards an integral culture of unity and fraternity”.
Amen Mohammed is a young man who invited everyone to make a very personal commitment: “800 years ago the Sufi mystic Rumi said, ‘Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself’. We should all have the courage and vision to change things, but first of all we need to work on ourselves”.
Work for the Global Compact on Education continues in four main areas: the dignity of human rights, peace and citizenship, integral ecology, fraternity and development. Active partners in this include Notre Dame University in the United States, the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome, the Xaverian University of Bogotà and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. LUMSA University of Rome will be coordinating all this work aimed at developing the perspectives opened up by Pope Francis’ message.