mercoledì 4 novembre 2009

Cross in Italian classrooms, Italian schools crucified

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, accepting the suit of an italian citizen with finnish origins, ruled that:
"The presence of the crucifix...could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion", "This could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities". According to the verdict, the Italian state is to "refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it...and was required to observe confessional neutrality in the context of public education, where attending classes was compulsory irrespective of religion, and where the aim should be to foster critical thinking in pupils."

Italian catholic groups and movements reacted immediately to this with the Education minister Mariastella Gelmini who is appealing against the ruling. She said crosses in class "symbolized our tradition". The Vatican of course has negatively considered the decision of the court.

In my opinion I think that all this is rather grotesque. First of all the italian education system, destroyed after decades of polilitcal mismanagement in material and immaterial terms, represents the sad scenario of this drama. In Italy we consider the critical importance of education when discussing about crucifixes understimating its essential role for the national social and cultural development when investments, programs, structures, activities, etc. are at stake.

Secondly, in my opinion when a religion depends only on some symbols, whose inner sense is completely ignored, (cricifixes, turbans, veils, food, etc.), it means that this is a religion essentially weak.

If someone believes to see his/her faith at risk for the absence of a cross in a classroom, it means that his/her faith has vanished long ago. This kind of religion is only an external phenomenon made only of prohibitions, condemnations, imagines, rituals and formulas whose sense is completely unknown for a large part of believers: these are only tools of social regulations.

A culture or a religion which consider the removal of a cross from a classroom as a threat are fundamentally an immobile culture and a religion.

Classrooms should eventually host a plurality of religious symbols from different religions whose sense and meaning should be clearly explained: otherwise these important expressions of the human spirituality become only furniture.

Our society is deeply changed: if we are not able yet to consider this plurality, it is better not to have any religious symbol in our schools.

With regards to this, I wish to remeber Claude Lévi-Strauss one of the greatest thinker of our times...

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