Universities as spaces of freedom

libertad4 Universities as spaces of freedomThe 9th century saw the birth of the first universities committed to the idea of academic freedom. Many centuries have passed since then. With great sorrow, I see that history often not only elevates the place of universities and their countless contributions to society but also stains it, condemnably, with blood and violence.

The recent massacre of 148 Catholic students at Kenya’s Garissa University College by a group of Islamic fundamentalists leaves one feeling absolutely dumbfounded and powerless. When I heard the news on 2nd April, I was moved to denounce this atrocity and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

After Pakistan, Nigeria and South Sudan, Kenya is the fourth country to be hit by a terrorist attack targeting students and schools. These are crimes against humanity – brutal acts that defy understanding.

Search for truth

As defined centuries ago, universities are and must always be spaces where freedom of thought and belief are of paramount importance; they are places where, if any faith exists, it can be summed up as follows: the permanent search for truth.

Universities are dedicated to research, study and science as the means to enrich and improve our society by promoting respectful dialogue, justice and progress. Nothing could be further from the idea of the university than impositions and dogmas.

garissa university1 Universities as spaces of freedomA university faculty is no place for weapons; ideas fight for prominence through debate and the only omnipresent power is the permanent yearning for knowledge manifested by each student who attends class. I echo the sentiments of the international community and the statement released by UNIJES, the federation of Jesuit universities in Spain, regarding this barbaric act.

I firmly believe that understanding among all citizens, regardless of faith, is the fundamental principle for the democratic coexistence of peoples. Despite attempts to silence and politicise universities, we must fight to make sure that these institutions remain open to tolerance and civilised debate.

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