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MEPhI hosts First Russian scientific conference “Theology in educational space


On 14 – 15 of June the First Russian scientific conference “Theology in the educational space” has been held on the basis of the National Research Nuclear University "MEPhI" and the Sts Cyril and Methodius’ Church Post-Graduate and Doctoral School with the support of the Ministry of education and science of the Russian Federation.

The Chairman of the Organizing Committee, Chairman of the Department for church external relations of the Moscow Patriarchy, Volokolamsk Metropolitan Hilarion said that it was the first time when the scientific forum, having all-Russian status, brought together heads of state authorities responsible for the development and implementation of educational policy, representatives of religious traditions, rectors, professors and lecturers from both secular and religious universities, which implement educational programs in theology.

Participants addressed the problems and prospects of development of theology as a field of knowledge both in scientific and academic aspect and in the aspect of interreligious cooperation. Attention was paid to domestic and global experience. There was held a discussion of successful models of theological education in public and private, secular and religious universities.

The special tone of the conference was set by the greeting of His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, read out by the Volokolamsk Metropolitan Hilarion. “State recognition of theology as a scientific specialty, creation of Dissertation Councils and of the Expert Council of the Higher Attestation Commission marks the beginning of a new phase in the history of the Russian education and science. All this attests that society is gradually freeing from the burden of misconceptions and ideological cliches of the past, due to which science kept out of the knowledge that do not fit into the framework of materialist philosophy and natural science of the 19th century,” said the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

A deep insight into the difficult and sometimes dramatic history of theological education was made by the Minister of education and science of the Russian Federation O.Yu. Vasilieva, who stressed that today our country, “have no restrictions and no obstacles in order to develop and expand this area of scientific knowledge.”

Of course, this topic will still have a lot of discussions and “natural scientists will ask questions in all media,” suggests the Minister, but theology is evolving. 51 Universities have specialized departments, it provides a progressive increase in the number of budget places on the specialty “Theology”.

The Chairman of the Higher Attestation Commission at the Ministry of education and science of the Russian Federation, the rector of the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia V.M. Filippov noted that the current attitude of the society to theological education was based on the many myths and outdated stereotypes. According to V.M. Filippov, these stereotypes are partly caused by ideological blinders, by many years of aggressive anti-religious propaganda, and partly by the fact that the lecturers-theologians do not always take into account the current realities in society themselves and not strive to overcome outdated stereotypes in an open discussion.

The rector of MEPhI M.N. Strikhanov expressed confidence that the addition of the Theology Department to the Humanities in the University brings a lot of strategic principles of students education, their orientation to human values verified by centuries. Recalling consequences led by the retreat from the values of the ancestors, the rector said that even in Soviet times the ideology of communism had to appeal to foundations, rooted in a religious tradition, to motivate people to great things.

This is the concept of moral ideals, which doesn’t allow destroying the guiding lines of society and the individual. Assessing the situation in modern Russia, we can say that the social differentiation of society, economic disintegration, devaluation of spiritual values has had a negative impact on the public consciousness of many social and age groups, especially important – the youth.

In the case of the technical University this task becomes even more responsible, because many its graduates work in technology and defense sectors of the country. Through the example of MEPhI M.N. Strikhanov told about development of humanitarian education sector in the University, saying that theology in a technical University is not an exotic educational discipline, not a whim of Church representatives, not a try to invade someone else's space in order to impose a religious worldview, not an obstacle in the teaching of traditional scientific disciplines.

The conference also included round tables on themes: “Theology as a branch of knowledge: problems and prospects”, “Theology and educational standards”, and “Theology as a space of interfaith cooperation”.

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