LAKHANPAL: Our Jesuit Tradition Thrives In Qatar's Islamic Culture
Cutter, Kuh-Tawr, Qatar
Published: Monday, March 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 02:03
I was initially confused as to how Georgetown could maintain a Jesuit tradition in the middle of the Arab World. It doesn’t seem to fit with the character of Qatar. The public prayer call airs five times a day, many women are fully covered and the open preaching of religions other than Islam is illegal. But at the SFS-Q campus, banners with the nine pillars of Georgetown’s Jesuit nature are proudly displayed.
But those who say that Jesuit or Christian values are incompatible with an Islamic society are completely wrong. Jesuit values are the most important part of Georgetown’s culture, even here in Qatar. “In accordance with the Jesuit tradition” could very well be one of the most repeated phrases on our Doha campus.
I would go as far as to say that there is no difference between Jesuit values and the teachings of Islam. I don’t claim to be an authority on either, but from what little I understand of the Christian and Islamic faiths, they fit.
Culturally, there are differences. Historically, there has been friction. But coming from the unbiased view of a secular Hindu, there is definitely a sense of compatibility between the two faiths.
This is represented perfectly in the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. In a country that only has one official church, Georgetown holds a weekly mass. In one of the most prosperous nations on earth, Georgetown’s SFS-Q offers free-of-charge international service trips. In what is officially a Wahhabi Islamic state, Qatar’s only Bible study group meets in what may be one of very few inter-faith rooms in the country.
I think I figured out why this predominantly Muslim society welcomes the Jesuit values presented by Georgetown, though: People here realize that “men and women for others” is not just Christian or Muslim. It’s both. Heck, I’m pretty sure it’s Hindu, too.
If there are two facets that truly unite our two campuses — and many faiths — it’s that all accomplishment is understood to be for the greater glory of God and is conducted with interreligious understanding. The students of SFS-Q are, for the most part, very religious. While “Problem of God” can be a challenge, I’m very appreciative of the fact that my religious Islamic peers embrace the traditions which have maintained the integrity of this university for over two centuries.
And I’m ashamed that I ever thought they wouldn’t. Here, it isn’t about the word “Jesuit,” it’s about the ethics that fall under it. There’s no backlash, no complaint, no sense of “there they go again, those gosh darn Christians from the West trying to impose their Jesus on me!”
I don’t know what life is like on the D.C. campus. I don’t know how well the Jesuit values are maintained there. But I think I can speak for SFS-Q. In Doha, there’s a certain pride about being a part of this community. There’s a morality here that can only be due to the spiritual nature of the majority of the student body.
We have a clear culture which follows the Jesuit tradition. We have similar academic rigor. So really, our campus cultures aren’t too different. The difference in vantage point is the only thing that separates us. I can write about Qatar and read about Washington, but who’s wiser until I experience the Hilltop and you come to the Dunetop?
Nikhil Lakhanpal is a freshman at the School of Foreign Service-Qatar campus. CUTTER, KUH-TAWR, QATAR appears every other Tuesday.