At the Pierre Abou Khater Auditorium, the Faculty of Humanities’ (FH) Benedict XVI Endowed Chair of Religious, Cultural, and Philosophical Studies at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) recently hosted a lecture series titled “Muslim/Christian Alliance for the Defense and Cultivation of the Family and the Land in Lebanon.” This three-year pilot project started in August 2022 and is set to be complete in 2025, aiming to foster interfaith cooperation and dialogue in an effort to better understand, and effectively respond to, various topics relevant to the Lebanese community, culture, and environment. Focusing on the solidarity of the family as it relates to the health and integrity of the ecosystem, this conference is the first step in exploring and expressing the interconnectedness between the family and the environment, emphasizing the role of gender and its ecological roots.
Professor Edward Alam, the Chair himself, set the stage for the first lecture of the program by referring to the 2019 Vatican document published by the Congregation of Catholic Education, titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education.” The document presents a Christian anthropology in response to gender ideology, how it differs from gender science, and its increasing inclusion in educational curricula. Alam extrapolated on these points and highlighted how mainstream gender ideology undermines the theological and metaphysical roots of Catholic teachings on men and women, instead creating an atomized expression of identity rather than encouraging the inherent wholeness of the person.
Guest Speaker Dr. Hosn Abboud then presented her paper, “A Muslim Woman’s Scholarly Reading of ‘Male and Female He Created Them.’” Abboud drew on her work and research on the Virgin Mary in the Qur’an, drawing parallels between motherhood, nature, the womb, and the earth. Her conclusion brought attention to modern technology’s role in immersing younger generations into the virtual world, a pivotal development in facilitating a disembodied experience of one’s identity, hence the youth’s attraction to gender ideology as a relatable concept.
Ending the conference was the scholar, Professor Youssef Rahme, whose presentation, “The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet,” reflected upon the consequences of a changing climate. In an open-floor discussion, Rahme and the audience grappled with the question of when and whether coordinated global efforts to curb climate change would come into full effect and successfully meet their goals. Alam related the topic to the Biblical analogy of the task of cultivating masculinity and femininity as it corresponds to the task of cultivating the garden, inspired by Genesis.
Further seminars will be hosted over the course of the year, the most imminent under the following titles:
January 2023: “Signs on the Earth: Islam, Modernity, and the Climate Crisis” by NDU Alumna, Crystelle Saleh.
February 2022: “Catholic Social Teaching and Sustainable Development: Lebanon’s Untapped Wellspring” by Abbot Semaan Abou Abdou, Vice President for Finance and Administration.
March 2023: “Deep Ecology for the 21st Century” by Dr. Pauline Aad, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences.