Bernardo M. Villegas
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Fraternal Humanism

          Pope Francis has coined a phrase that describes a possible solution to today’s multiple crises.  Side by side with remarkable progress in technology, especially in such sectors as information and communications technology, biotechnology and material sciences—which are improving the lives of hundreds of millions of people all over the world, especially in the so-called emerging markets—there are constant threats to world peace; widespread feelings of mutual distrust and hatred; the clash among different cultures; poverty, unemployment and exploitation; and massive migration of citizens of troubled societies to the more developed nations, especially in Europe. I was alerted by Dr. Raul Nidoy, Director for Formation of the Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF), that the Pope just issued a document addressed to educational institutions about how to continue building a “civilization of love” fifty years after Pope Paul VI first used the phrase in Populorum progressio.  He speaks of “humanizing education” as he reminds educators that the goals of education are the harmonious development of physical, moral and intellectual abilities, aimed at the gradual maturation of a sense of responsibility; the conquest of true freedom; and positive and prudent sex education.  With so much talk about robotization and Artificial Intelligence invading the world of human work, it is necessary to humanize education, i.e. to make it a process in which each person can develop his or her own deep-rooted attitudes and vocation, and thus contribute to his or her vocation within the community. The spread of fraternal humanism in our educational institutions from basic education to the university level, will strengthen the competitive advantage of Filipinos in the global labor market.  They will retain the very humane approach to serving others that give a premium to our workers both here and abroad.

         Without neglecting the need to help students to acquire knowledge and skills needed in their future careers, it is important to put the person at the center of education, in a framework of relationships which can be termed “fraternal humanism.”  This requires respecting the family as the first natural society, with educators only complementing the primary task of parents to educate their children.  Everyone should be encouraged to live, study and act in accordance with the reasons of fraternal humanism.  Places for meeting and discussion should be facilitated to create valid educational projects.  The environment should be open, with all walls of exclusivity pulled down.

         There should be a culture of dialogue so necessary to confront the challenges of multicultural existence.  The Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in other religions.  True dialogue takes place within an ethical framework of requirements and attitudes for formation, as well as social objectives, freedom and equality.  We should link the ethical principles we proclaim (e.g. peace, fairness, respect, democracy, etc.) with social and civic choices. All religious beliefs should profess their positive ethical values in public, strongly supported by relational principles such as spontaneity, freedom, equality, consistency, peace and the common good.  The search for a peaceful and enriching co-existence should be rooted in the broader concept of the human being.

         In line with the current emphasis on “inclusive growth”, i.e. socio-economic growth that also benefits the most needy sectors of society, there should be true inclusion in the educational process.  Every citizen should be allowed to feel actively involved in building fraternal humanism.  Pluralism should be encouraged.  The common good should encompass progressively wider horizons so as to embrace the entire human family.  There should be a keen awareness that the common good is not the greater good for the greater number but is a social order that enables every single person on this planet to attain his or her fullest human development.  Everyone should be conscious that choices made in the present are able to influence the lifestyles, and in some cases the very existence of future citizens.  The people today should also establish a relationship of solidarity with the generations that came before us.  This should lead to the formation of historical awareness.  All are recognized as being children of the Father and thus in a relationship of universal solidarity.

         As an educator at the University of Asia and the Pacific, I am gratified to know that we have already been for some time following the guidelines given by Pope Francis in this new document for educational institutions. Dr. Nidoy summarizes these guidelines which can be followed by every educational institution desirous of “educating to fraternal humanism.” According to him, the following should be the strategic directions in the educational process:  “Harmonize educational and research initiatives with the goals of fraternal humanism; enable inclusive dynamics, constantly looking for new opportunities to integrate different people in one’s teaching and learning circle, especially those for whom it is difficult to find a formation programme appropriate to their needs; self-socialization through the organization of cooperation networks;  develop cooperation networks in the various fields of education.”

         This spirit of cooperation in education should lead to a reasonable approach to collaboration.  Preference should be given to joint efforts of the teaching staff in preparing their formation programs.  Solidarity between teachers and learners must be ever more inclusive, plural and democratic.  In research, which is an indispensable activity of the teacher, joint research should be established in all areas of knowledge. Integrated research groups among teachers, young researchers and students should be formed.  Educators should be engaged in multidisciplinary research in cooperation with scientists in research institutes and think tanks.  There should be sharing of responsibility and of experiences, which is essential for optimizing resources and avoiding risks.  There should be an exchange of teachers for certain periods.  These teachers should be the main channel for enhancing cooperation.  I encourage my fellow educators to creatively think of more ways of operationalizing this new exciting concept proposed by Pope Francis of “Fraternal Humanism.”  For comments, my email address is