From June 26 to July 7, the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development and the Center for Arab-West Understanding jointly administered a highly successful intercultural summer school. The school was sponsored through the SGP party (Reformed Political Party) in the Netherlands who support strong relations between Egypt and Europe. Most sessions of the summer school were held on the campus of Heliopolis University, but there were also numerous excursions to important sites in and around Cairo.
More than twenty students arrived from countries as diverse as Egypt, Tunisia, Brazil, India, South Korea, Austria, and the Netherlands. They participated in a program which combined constructive dialogue, academic instruction, team-building exercises, as well as music and the arts. They explored important topics such as cultural relations between Europe and the Middle East, interreligious dialogue, and the role of the arts in intercultural dialogue. Pedagogically, the summer school emphasized interactive learning through dialogue rather than more traditional approaches. The school also provided students with the opportunity to visit several sites, including the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, and Sekem Farms. The student group also visited Salam Medical Center in al-Qanatir directed by Dr. Freddy al-Baiady, a former member of the Egyptian Shura Council. Beyond offering medical services to many low-income families, the center models interfaith cooperation as both Christians and Muslims work together. Interfaith cooperation for a sustainable future was an important theme of the school.
The summer school hosted several prominent lecturers, including Dr. Hasan Wageih, professor of political science and linguistics at al-Azhar University; Mr. Bas Belder, Dutch member of the European Parliament; Dr. Hoda Awad, professor of political science at Misr University, Dr. Ahmad al-Ghobashy, professor of history at the Heliopolis University, and Johan Snell, senior journalism professor at Ede’s Christian University in the Netherlands.
The feedback from students at the summer school has been very positive. Students from diverse countries, cultures, and religious viewpoints were able to communicate constructively with one another and develop positive relationships. The Heliopolis University and the Center for Arab-West Understanding are now talking about further cooperation including organizing a new summer school next year.