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Unique Program Teaches Ethics Through Tragedy

Asst. News Editor

Published: Monday, April 23, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01

If those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it, the graduate students participating in the 2012 Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) seminars are better off than most.

FASPE selects up to 15 graduate students studying journalism, law, medicine, and theology each year to be part of a two-week program in New York, Poland, and Germany that uses the Holocaust to teach students about modern ethical issues facing their respective fields of study.

Nicholas Collura and Michael Rozier, S.J., both STM ’14, were selected to participate this year.

FASPE’s unique program hopes that by exposing religious and professional leaders to the ethical challenges and failures of past leaders, they will be able to help make better decisions in the future. It is currently working on adding a program for business students.“I decided to apply because it seemed like a unique opportunity to study this tragic yet watershed moment in modern history from a perspective of faith,” Rozier said in an e-mail. “For me, something as big as the Holocaust can’t help but bump up against something as big as God.”

The seminary program focuses on the topics of the fate of “God’s image” in the shadow of the Holocaust; Christian churches and military chaplains in Nazi Germany; Pope John Paul II and the encyclicals; post-war reconciliation, apologies, and confessions; religious faith, exclusivism, and temptations to prejudice and intolerance; and dealing with authoritarianism in religion and society.

“I don’t want to go in with a defensive shield made up of whatever I think I already know or understand about the Holocaust,” Collura said. “I want to be vulnerable. I don’t know what I will bring back from this encounter, but it will certainly be interesting to find out.”

The program is comprised of visits to sites such as the Museum of Jewish History in New York, the Auschwitz-Berkenau concentration camp in Poland, and the Wannsee House, where Nazi leaders met to discuss plans for the Final Solution, in Germany.

Because interreligious dialogue is central to the FASPE’s seminary program, participants will get to hear from various religious leaders about contemporary ethics.

These include Khalid Latif, the executive director and Imam of New York University’s Islamic Center; Mychal Springer, the director of the Center for Pastoral Care at the Jewish Theological Seminary; and a Holocaust survivor.

In Europe, participants will explore both the historical and cultural past of the cities of Berlin, Auschwitz, and Krakow. Seminar topics include prominent Protestants’ reactions to Nazism and Catholics’ reactions to the Holocaust.

Participants will also tour the city of Krakow, Poland, to learn more about its Jewish, Catholic, and Polish history.

The FASPE program was founded in 2010. Since then, a total of 23 scholars have been selected.

“Whatever I gain from this experience is not really my own, but belongs to the greater community: those with whom I study, as well as those whom this experience, I hope, will help me to serve,” Collura said.

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