On August 31, 2020, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II inaugurated the Program of Masters of Religion and Theology Studies at the University of Lugano. This inauguration came within the International Conference “Christian Churches and Communities in Near East” organized virtually by the Faculty of Theology, the Institute of Religions and Theology (ReTe) and the Frederica Spitzer Foundation.
In his lecture, His Holiness gave a historical overview of the Christian presence in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He spoke about the emergence of Christianity in this region and the spread of Christian values throughout the world. He also mentioned the role of the Churches in the spread of knowledge to the entire world. His Holiness then spoke about the historical events that affected the Christian presence and pointed out that Christians have suffered from persecutions throughout the centuries. He emphasized that, in modern times, a genocide was committed against the Christians at the beginning of the twentieth century. Moreover, many countries of the Middle East have witnessed the emigration of a large percentage of their Christian population from the land of the forefathers. In the lecture, His Holiness spoke about the deterioration of the economic situation which increased the suffering of Christians, especially with the spread of COVID-19 and the recent explosion that took place in Beirut.
At the end, His Holiness congratulated the Faculty of Theology for its new Masters program and hope that the students who will enroll in this program will benefit from the knowledge that will be taught in it and will be able to better serve their communities and societies once they graduate.
The President of Antioch Syrian University Dr. Rakan Razouk, as well as the Dean of the Faculty of Economy and Business Administration Dr. Bassam Assaad, participated in the Conference. Antioch Syrian University has recently signed a partnership agreement with the University of Lugano as a first step towards deep collaboration between the two universities and improvement of the academic level of their students.