Marking a potential partnership in the future with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, an interfaith charitable foundation founded by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University administration and faculty recently welcomed Sandhya Gupta, Tony Blair Faith Foundation Faiths Act India Consultant, to the university in a remarkable consultation and forum on July 16, 2012 at the LRC Conference Room.
Representing the university in the consultation are Dr. Rebecca Fernandez, Academic Vice President, Marlone Araneta of the Ateneo Research Center (ARC), Dr. Claribel Concepcion, School of Liberal Arts (SLA) Dean, and the Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Social Science Department chairpersons and faculty.
Starting with a brief yet comprehensive orientation, Gupta discussed the Foundation’s Faith and Globalization Initiative that aims to build a global network of leading universities where research and teaching are actively utilized in making sense of religions in varied socio-cultural and political contexts. ADZU, being recognized as an interesting area for study by the Foundation, is one of the four universities in the Philippines, other than Ateneo de Manila University, Mindanao State University, and Notre Dame University, to be invited in becoming part of this network.
Made possible by the signing of Memorandum of Understanding with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Department of Education (DepEd), the Foundation envisions the integration in the academe of different critical examination approaches to faith and globalization issues.
In the course of an open forum, Dr. Fernandez responded positively to the invitation by describing the global effort as “interesting and unique as it makes joint teaching possible regardless of religious and socio-political contexts being discussed altogether.”
Suggestions and feedbacks coming from faculty members were quickly responded to by Gupta including remarkable recommendations such as possible integration of the Initiative’s course outline in the University’s academic programs particularly in the fields of Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Social Sciences, creation of a series of enrichment seminars where the Faith and Globalization modules will be used, and production of academic research papers where global and religious themes serve as topics.
Before proceeding to a conversation-filled lunch where casual exchange of ideas on cultural diversity was made possible, Gupta ended the forum by discussing the possible support that the Foundation can give to its partnering universities including training of faculty members as facilitators, funding of researches, and holding conferences for student representatives and exchange programs.
The ADZU representatives during the consultation ended the half-day event with an expression of appreciation to Sandhya Gupta and a promise of an immediate consolidation of ideas, conceptualization of plans, and assessment of resources and programs that can be made available for the implementation of the Initiative.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation – Ateneo de Zamboanga University consultation does not only prove to be a promising opportunity for an academic upgrade but also as a potential milestone in the University’s institutional role of working for peace and progress amidst cultural diversity in Western Mindanao.
Words by Adrian S. Uro; Photos by Perre Ian T. Dela Cruz