On 15 November, in a meeting that has had to be postponed from 11 April, Cardinal Angelo Scola will make a rare visit to London to speak about the work of the Oasis Foundation, which promotes the mutual understanding of Christians and Muslims, especially in Islamic countries where Christians are a (sometimes persecuted) minority.
Scola is now Archbishop of Milan, having set up Oasis while he was Patriarch of Venice, but he clearly continues to take a keen interest in the Foundation, and its journal of "cultural interpretation", OASIS. The journal offers accurate information and intelligent commentary on events and movements to Christians in the Middle and Far East and Africa – but also in the West, where conventional approaches to what it calls the mestizaje or metissage (hybridization or "mixing up") of civilizations have largely failed. Like Baroness Warsi, OASIS believes that the correct response to this mixing is not the way of "faith neutrality" and the privatization of religious belief proposed by the secularists – a kind of spiritual lobotomy which would normalize the atheist view and allow no one else to influence the policies of government.
What is the alternative? Secularists fear a war between rival religious groups to determine which of them will form a "confessional state", in which unbelievers will suddenly find themselves once more the persecuted minority. The concept of metissage is intended to open an alternative path. Instead of fearing religious minorities and yearning for a past or future golden age of religious purity, Cardinal Scola believes we should embrace the inevitable mixing of peoples "to which the Author of history seems to be calling humanity". We should work to orient positively this on-going "hybridisation of civilizations" so that the meeting between them is not transformed into conflict. Since faith is inevitably tangled up with culture and yet culture remains distinct from faith, each faith is provoked by the others to re-think its own interpretation of culture. In a society comprising many faiths this process may lead to a "mixed" culture, yet without confusing one faith with another or imposing one faith on everybody. For this to happen, however, the public space must remain or become a place where different worldviews can meet and discuss, without any of them (including secularism) being able to monopolize it exclusively.