The Lay Centre welcomed three new students at the start of the second semester. Two are from Africa and one hails from Asia.
The Venerable Master Thondara is a Buddhist monk from Myanmar. He is the administrator of the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy in Sagaing City. About 1,000 students attend the academy, which teaches Buddhist philosophy, history and spirituality. But he has taken one semester off from his work to study in Rome, with a scholarship from the Nostra Aetate Foundation.
His studies at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) include the three monotheistic religions, Roman Catholic spirituality and Early Christian prayers.
Thondara has been a monk for 30 years; he entered the monastery at the age of 8 and spent 12 years in formation as a novice. He earned the additional title “Master,” which means teacher. He speaks English, Pali and Burmese.
Isaias Marcano is a Catholic layman from the seaport city of Quelimane, Mozambique, where he served as a pastoral worker in his diocese, named for the city. His bishop has sponsored his studies in Rome at the Urbanianum, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in religious studies and missiology.
He is currently working toward his licentiate in pastoral theology, also at the Urbanianum. Once he has completed his studies, he said he would return to teach in his diocese and in the local Catholic university.
Despite being in Rome for six years, this is his first year at The Lay Centre. He speaks Portuguese, Italian, English and the local language, Chuabo, which is his mother tongue.
Ousmane Coulibably is a Muslim layman and a second-year doctoral student at the University of Sultan Moulay Slimane (Beni Mellal), Morocco. He, too, is in Rome for one semester with a scholarship from the Nostra Aetate Foundation. He is studying the Synoptic Gospels at the Angelicum and Christian-Muslim dialogue at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI).
Originally from Boundiali, northern Côte d’Ivoire, Coulibaly earned a bachelor’s degree in Islamology and Arabic in Dakar, Senegal. He then earned a master’s degree at the University of Sultan Moulay Slimane (Beni Mellal); his thesis was a comparative study of the commandments in the Bible and in the Koran. His doctoral research at the same university pursues comparative studies in Islam and Christianity, this time their common values and the coexistence of these two communities in Côte d’Ivoire.
Coulibaly also holds a bachelor’s degree in business management. He speaks French, English, Arabic, Djola, Madengo and Wolof. He said his goal is to teach in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan.
The Nostra Aetate Foundation was established in 1990, under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, as a means of promoting and supporting dialogue between Christians and believers of other religions in different countries around the world.