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Franciscan Friary
St. Francis Str. 1

The Custody
is present in:
Israel / Palestine

Buenos Aires

in various
all around
the world

Terra Sancta Schools
- Non-Catholics and non-Christians -

by Fr. Halim Nujaim ofm

If we look back at the history of the Terra Sancta schools, we would find that the aims behind establishing these schools were primarily to provide a religious and then, a general education. In the sixteenth century, we read that the superiors used to encourage the establishment of schools in order to teach students the principles of reading, writing, mathematics, languages, religious singing and catechism. For this reason, admission was confined only to Catholic students.

Those were the needs at that period of time especially when the Middle East was in need of guides and special interpreters for the foreign tourists and pilgrims of the Holy Land. Our schools served the educational needs of their children. Furthermore, the school was considered the appropriate place for teaching children the principles of religion and later on a more advanced Christian religious education in order to assist them in facing the problems of life. Needless to say the atmosphere was tense at that time between Catholics and non-Catholics, and hence only Catholic students were admitted. Later on they began to admit non-Catholics as well at the request and insistence of their parents.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the Franciscans realized that one of the defects of the educational system was that it was based on the differences in religious beliefs. Consequently, Terra Sancta schools finally opened their doors to Moslem students. Since that time the number of Moslem students have increased dramatically with some schools having an greater majority of Moslems. Jews, however, enrolled in our schools in small numbers especially before 1948. At present, the Terra Sancta schools has hired the services of a number of non-Christians teachers.


Educating soul, mind and body

Terra Sancta schools believe in religious freedom and the freedom of conscience for the students, their families and the staff. Hence we have no imposition of one's religion beliefs on another. Since Christian religious education is generally neglected in other schools in the area, we obviously have to emphasize it in hopes of teaching our Christians the principles of their religion while at the same time raising their religious standard to that of their colleagues.

In regards to respecting religious freedom, the Terra Sancta schools did not hesitate to teach non-Christians the principles of their religion even though the Islamic and Jewish schools did not offer the Christian students the privilege of learning about their religion. Since the beginning of the 1960's of this century our schools have been teaching Islamic religious education to Moslem students together with the Christian religious education to Christian students.

The school reflects the picture of society in which it was established. It is a microcosm of society and a place where students learn how to live in a society with different religious convictions, whether they be Moslems or Christians , whether they are the majority, like the Moslems, or minority like are the Christians . This Christian minority should enjoy equality and not only tolerance, so that it can actively participate in building a society.

For the purpose of achieving the above aim, namely, equality among the members of society, our schools have opened their doors to all members of society. In our schools, the Christian student sits next to the Moslem student. Both discuss matters together and assist one another in acquiring knowledge. In a way, Both share in forming effective bricks for building a society where all members are equal in rights and duties irrespective of their different convictions.

It is only through this type of relationship that we are able to lay down a foundation for a real dialogue. With tolerance and coexistence comes the stage of equality where one accepts the other as he is with all his rights and privileges. Today they are studying together, tomorrow they will be living alongside each other and hopefully what they received in their schooling will become an off shoot of how they will be treating each other.

  Custody Main


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