By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis has urged Chile’s intellectuals and academics to sensitize the nation as to the importance of showing special care and respect for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions.
Addressing over 1,000 top Chilean academics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago, Pope Francis underscored the responsibility of educators in creating the conditions for peaceful coexistence in the country.
Dialgoue and consciousness at the basis of peace
At the conclusion of a day spent mostly in the southern Araucania region, the contested homeland of the indigenous Mapuche peoples where centuries-old conflicts have resulted in grave human rights violations and abuse, Pope Francis said indigenous peoples are “not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed”.
Peaceful coexistence as a nation
He told university professors and intellectuals that the accelerated pace and sense of disorientation before new processes and changes in societies call for new educational processes that are transformative, inclusive and that favour encounter and coexistence.
This process, he said, requires an education that ”integrates and harmonizes intellect (the head), affections (the heart) and activity (the hands)”.
Such an approach, the Pope explained, will offer students a growth that is harmonious not only at the personal level, but also at the level of society and will prevent fragmentation and social breakdown.
Consciousness of the importance of public life
The Pope dedicated much attention to what he referred to as “this ‘liquid’ society or ‘society of lightness’ in which, he said, the new meeting place seems to be the “cloud” where “everything evaporates and thus loses consistency” which may be one of the reasons for the loss of a consciousness of the importance of public life.
“Without that consciousness it is very difficult to build the nation” he said, because the only thing that appears to be important and valid is what pertains to the individual.
And calling for a culture that cherishes memory and the bonds that support it, Francis said a nation that lacks the consciousness of the importance of public life “will be not only increasingly fragmented, but also more conflictual and violent”.
Educators challenged to prevent fragmentation
So, stressing the need to progress as community, the Pope said the university is challenged to generate new processes that can overcome fragmentation and provide new forms of inclusivity.
He said knowledge must lead to “an interplay between the university classroom and the wisdom of the peoples who make up this richly blessed land”.
Knowledge at the service of life
And pointing out that knowledge must always sense that it is at the service of life, the Pope said the educational community cannot be reduced to classrooms and libraries but must be continually challenged to participation.
Francis also recalled an ancient cabalistic tradition according to which evil originated in the rift produced by man who ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thus allowing knowledge to gain the upper hand over creation, subjecting it to its own designs and desires .
“This, he said, will always be a subtle temptation in every academic setting: to reduce creation to certain interpretative models that deprive it of the very Mystery that has moved whole generations to seek what is just, good, beautiful and true”.
A true “professor”, he said, must be capable of awakening wonderment in his students: “Wonderment at the world and at an entire universe waiting to be discovered!”
A prophetic mission
And reminding those present that the mission entrusted to them is prophetic as they are challenged to generate processes that enlighten contemporary culture, Pope Francis urged them to “seek out ever new spaces for dialogue rather than confrontation, spaces of encounter rather than division, paths of friendly disagreement that allow for respectful differences between persons joined in a sincere effort to advance as a community towards a renewed national coexistence”.