Introductory Description of the Initiative
In 2006, at a conference in Stellar Physics in Granada, a group of colleagues met with Claus Rolfs (an outstanding nuclear physicist, now retired, with many interests in Astrophysics) and with Mounib El Eid, (an expert in Stellar Structure and Nucleosynthesis) in a side meeting dedicated to discuss an emerging idea, strongly supported by Claus. The idea was to found a school for University students, PhD students and young researchers with special emphasis to participants from Arab Countries, as an indication that science can unify nations and promote peace even in periods of difficulties, like those that were already roaming the Mediterranean area. The details of the project continued to be debated during the following years, while several countries were swept by military and terroristic threats and the southern European coasts were already experiencing a growing flux of desperate immigrants, traveling in slavery and on unsecure vessels, which were transforming the Mediterranean sea from a place of civilization into a graveyard; something that was only going to worsen in the years to come.
We were primarily concerned for the future of students and post-docs from the Mediterranean countries and wanted to initiate something in order to help them to understand (and maybe undertake) our profession, which we consider as and the best form of culture and civilization of modern society; something that is strictly connected with democracy.
Claus Rolfs' stimulus and leadership led a number of friends in Spain, Lebanon, Germany, Italy, Turkey and other countries to start thinking of acting more incisively and urgently together, to show that science does not see the differences in color, sex, age, nationality, etc., in any other way than a form of richness that mankind has. Although most of the attending colleagues were Nuclear Astrophysicists, they decided to start with a school in Astronomy, to underline a field of science that saw a wealth of great thinkers in the past, in the Islamic Culture. Even the name of the school (Azarquiel) was decided in honor of a famous medieval Arab astronomer from Cordoba: the intention of the organizers was to stimulate fruitful exchanges among Arab/Middle East students (or young researchers) and their equivalents in Europe; and in the name of the school it was specified that it had to act as a bridge between East and West. The colleagues from Granada, where the idea was originally born, took the leadership and met a favorable response in the rectorate of the Granada University. They even found the support of the UN “Alliance of Civilizations”: the project had started.
The experiment had a remarkable success, with three successive schools organized in Spain (Granada), Lebanon (Beirut) and Turkey (Istanbul). In the three schools, which took place in 2010, 2011, 2012, the number of participants constantly grew from 35 to 60: many of them received full support through grants.