Entretien avec le P. Jean Jacques Pérennès, O.P., ancien directeur de l’Institut dominicain d’études orientales au Caire, nouveau directeur de l’École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem (en anglais, grâce à International Dominican Foundation) :
Fr. Jean Jacques Pérennès was born in northern France in 1949. With a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate in economics, Fr. Jean Jacques has an impressive background studying, teaching and holding various leadership positions all over the world. He spent a combined eighteen years teaching economics at the University of Algiers and then as a lecturer at the Institute of Political Studies and the Catholic University of Lyon. In 1985, Fr. Jean Jacques went to Rome to work as an assistant to the Master of the Dominican Order giving the opportunity to travel to various impoverished countries. In 2000, Fr. Jean Jacques began his time in Cairo holding positions as prior of the Dominican community, secretary general and Director of the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies (IDEO). He served as Vicar Provincial of the Dominicans in the Arab World from 2002-2010. After having spent nine years in Egypt working at IDEO, Fr. Jean Jacques Pérennès begins his new assignment as Director of the Ecole Biblique on October 1st. Read the interview below with Fr. Jean Jacques Pérennès.
How long were you at the IDEO?
I have spent 15 years in Egypt, 9 years as Secretary General of IDEO and 5 years as Director. Thy were demanding years but very happy and rewarding as well.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments during your time as Director of the IDEO?
I think that the greatest achievement has been to be able to build a team of young, gifted and enthusiastic friars able to work together and to take over the challenge of putting forward this great project of creating a mutual understanding between Muslim and Christian scholars. We have achieved other things : building a new library wing, creating a sophisticated software program (al kindi), renovating our buildings, but I do think that the human dimension of a team is, definitely, the greatest achievement of this period. And we made it together.
How do you feel about living in Jerusalem?
Jerusalem is a painful place to live, because of the permanent tensions between religions. My hope is to be able to connect here as well with people and institutions willing to build bridges, in a country which is building physical and political walls.
When will you start working at the Ecole?
I start working as director at the Ecole at the beginning of the academic year on October 1st, but I have been already working a lot in the past months to prepare a new start for this old and prestigious institution. With help of the Master of the Order and several provincials, we are blessed with the arrival this year of 4 new professors and a new administrator for the Ecole. New blood was urgently needed. They are coming. It is a blessing.
Why are these two institutions (both the IDEO and the Ecole) so important to the Dominican family? How can we spread the word to others?
Cairo’s priory was built by the friars of Jerusalem in the 1930s to help the students of the Ecole to study archeology. Finally, Cairo community was given another mission, but in both places, the commitment is the same : witnessing the love of God for everyone by our religious life and building friendship through study and culture. It is, indeed, a very Dominican mission : community life, study and witnessing by our life the love of God for everyone.