As-salaamu alaikum, grace and peace, greetings.
We welcome you to this year’s Bellarmine Forum: religion.identity.life.CONVIVENCIA
A couple of years ago, in one of those informal conversations in a corridor which are so much part of LMU life, we began to talk about the meeting of culture and religion in medieval Spain—a period of several centuries during which Jews, Christians and Muslims managed to live together in comparative peace. Together, they created a bridge culture—la convivencia—which was far more than the sum of its parts. Christian architects used Islamic motifs in their buildings. Muslim and Jewish philosophers kept alive the works of Aristotle in Arabic commentaries and translations. Mosques were used as synagogues on Saturdays and churches on Sundays. Later in history, more troubled times and places would look back on that period as a golden age of understanding and tolerance.
Our brief conversation was the small seed which has grown into this year’s Bellarmine Forum.
We too live and work in a place which can be more than the sum of its parts. As home to millions of people from every country on earth, it has been called ‘the Ellis Island of the 21st century.’ Our city, like medieval Spain, is a bridge culture, and its global influence far outreaches its immense and diverse population. This is the context in which we share existence.
LMU aspires to be a bridge between the city and the academy. We seek to bridge other facets of life too: the Catholic intellectual tradition values both faith and reason, imagination and intellect. The mission of our university includes the service of faith as well as the promotion of justice. We are proud of our Jesuit and Marymount traditions. At the same time we also strive to be an academic home for people of other religious convictions. (We are, incidentally, a Canadian Muslim and a Welsh Jesuit).
Our mission statement talks of the need for ‘a change of heart.’ In a world of intolerance, we may also need a change of mind. Conversion always involves some kind of conversation. We warmly invite you to be part of this conversation and this convivencia.
Amir Hussain and Dorian Llywelyn SJ