Friday, October 26, 2007

Evangelizism, Is Not Cross Cultural Understanding

To the Himalayas and Back
$200K grant will allow Holy Cross to continue hosting summer institute
The Himalayan frontier has been a meeting place of the world’s great civilizations: India, China, and the southern portions of the silk route that linked Asia to the Mediterranean. From antiquity, the region has been a significant zone of contact, interaction, innovation and change, says Todd Lewis, professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross.
Even today, the Himalayan region — including portions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and China (Tibet) — is central to the stability of the world.
To educate teachers on this critical region, Lewis is using a $199,602 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue a summer institute that he launched in 2002. The program, titled “Literatures, Religions and Arts of the Himalayan Region,” brings 30 elementary and secondary school teachers from the United States and around the world to Holy Cross for a month next summer to study with Lewis and co-director Leonard van der Kuijp, professor of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies and chair of the Sanskrit and Indian Studies department at Harvard University.
About 10 scholars from the United States, Asia and Europe will join them. Mathew Schmalz, assistant professor of religious studies at Holy Cross, is among them. He will offer insight on the use of popular Indian cinema allowing the teachers to learn about Hinduism and modern South Asian history.
“We deal with the Dalai Lama, the conflict between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, and the recent Maoist civil war in Nepal that has destabilized the world’s last Hindu monarchy,” explains Lewis. “In the institute, we emphasize religion: shamanism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Just as religion is at the center of culture and culture is what organizes civilizations, we provide rich, detailed content in this area. Building from this, we extend on this core to examine culture in many realms: language, literature, art history.”
The goal, says Lewis, is to give the teachers a rich academic experience so that their instruction in the K-12 classroom will be enhanced.
Professor van der Kuijp is one of the world’s leading Tibetologists, and Lewis is one of the few specialists on Buddhism of the lower, southern mountains of the Himalayas.
“We look at films from the region, have feasts in the Nepali, Tibetan, and Kashmiri styles, and bring to the Holy Cross program a school curriculum expert so the teachers see what books and other resources can be procured to bring the Himalayas into the classroom.”
Holy Cross staff members also train each teacher to build a Web page designed to implement new curriculum plans built from the institute’s learning experiences. These are published on the institute’s Holy Cross Web site and available to teachers worldwide.
“It might seem strange, even incongruous, that a program with this content would be held at Holy Cross, a Jesuit college,” says Lewis. “But in fact, it is not strange if you understand the Jesuits’ international traditions and Holy Cross’ mission.”
Lewis says Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J., president of Holy Cross, welcomes new groups each year during their visits and makes precisely this point.

“Fr. McFarland’s remarks always capture my shared sense of the Holy Cross
mission: the College is about engaging the world, seeking to understand Asia —
like the first Jesuits did, fearlessly, and where many Jesuits still serve today
— promoting cross-cultural understanding.”

There’s another reason why holding the institute at Holy Cross has special meaning.
“The teachers love being on this campus. It is, of course, attractive, but what we have gotten in the detailed evaluations from the first program in 2002 onward is that the Holy Cross community is very welcoming, our facilities are extraordinary, and our librarians and educational technology staff are exemplary in providing their expertise.” Link (here)

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