“Bossey opened my mind and my horizon.” These words from a former student touched Rev. Dr Dagmar Heller, dean of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute, one month ago as the two met at a conference.
For Heller, the student’s comment reflects what has occurred at Bossey for 70 years: a life-changing experience that transforms students into leaders in their local communities and in the world’s ecumenical movement.
As students become experts in ecumenism, they simultaneously learn the kind of peace-building skills that are vitally important in today’s global context, Heller said. “One of the most important aspects of education at Bossey is the combination of academic teaching and learning with practical living together in an ecumenical community,” she said.
Book-learning and life-learning intertwine to form an environment that combines scholarly methodology with the experimental adventure of a laboratory, she added. “People do not learn just from books about the other, but they learn through personal encounters and discussions with each other.”
For its students and faculty alike, Bossey is an intense environment in which they live, learn and pray together in an intercultural and interconfessional community of faith.
“We receive a lot of feedback from former students who realize only when they are back home, that the time at Bossey has changed them,” said Heller.
Steeped in history but always innovating
Even as Bossey looks back on seven decades, the institute is still seeing innovations in its curriculum. In an era when developing interreligious trust and respect is challenging, Bossey awarded its first Certificates in Advanced Studies (CAS) in Interreligious Studies this year.
Seventeen students received a CAS in Interreligious Studies in August after completing a six-week course, credited by the University of Geneva, that is evenly split between distance learning and a residential experience.
In connection with that interreligious work, Bossey professor Rev. Fr Dr Lawrence Iwuamadi received the annual “Inter-knowing Prize” from a Muslim non-profit, the Inter-knowing Foundation. He was commended for his positive and sincere commitment to interreligious and inter-human dialogue.
This coming weekend — 30 September through 2 October — the World Council of Churches is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Ecumenical Institute with a series of events including an open house, book launch, ecumenical worship service, and presentations and discussions on peace-building and the role of religions.
Presentations on the theme “Peace-building and the Role of Religions” will be offered by Prof. Dr Ahmed al-Tayyeb , Grand Imam and Shaykh of al-Azhar al-Sharif and Rev. Dr Ioan Sauca, the director of Bossey, as well as by students and alumni.