Declining Exposure to Religious Diversity

the-10-foreign-countries-that-send-the-most-students-to-american-collegesStudents interact less with peers of different faiths and traditions once they enter college, a new study finds.

Colleges and universities across the U.S., 122 of them, provided data to the Interfaith Youth Core around the 2015-16 academic year about their students’ religious habits and beliefs for the nonprofit’s Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS). The data were provided at two different points to show change — researchers will follow a national cohort of students until they are rising seniors in spring 2019 to show how the college experience can shape students’ religious and world views.

Per the report, 7,194 college students responded to the survey.

“We know that students enter college with a commitment to religious pluralism,” Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core (and an Inside Higher Ed contributor), said in a statement. “The IDEALS survey shows that a vast majority report respect for people of other religious or nonreligious perspectives. However, it is important that colleges and universities continue to provide opportunities for these ideas to expand and grow.”

Patel said otherwise, student may retreat into their own social groups, which is particularly troubling in “a moment of heightened division” in the country.

About 91 percent of the students indicated in the survey that they respect people who have religious perspectives different from their own — 85 percent said they admire people of other faiths and beliefs.

Despite this, students aren’t discussing or engaging with religion as much after entering college, the survey found.

Nearly half of students — 43 percent — said they had talked about religious or spiritual topics with their teachers before college, but that number dropped by 18 percentage points in their first year on campus.

In high school, 37 percent of students said, they attended a religious service involving views other than their own, but that decreased to 20 percent in college.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INSIDE HIGHER ED

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Picnic at tri-faith campus in Omaha, Nebraska brings together Christians, Jews, Muslims

5b70e09f4c33a.image (1)People of all ages, shapes and sizes arrived at the Tri-Faith Picnic at Omaha’s multifaith campus Sunday afternoon carrying bowls of salads and trays of desserts, just as they would for any other picnic in any other place.

They gathered under giant tents and shared their potluck offerings alongside the usual picnic standards, with a twist — the hamburgers were halal, the hot dogs kosher.

And as they dined, the Jews, Muslims and Christians gathered there furthered the aims of the Tri-Faith Initiative that has brought them together: fostering mutual understanding, respect and friendship. More than 500 attended, according to an organizer’s estimate.

“I think it binds people here,” said Nizam Qassem, a member of the mosque that the American Muslim Institute opened on the campus in 2017. “Wherever there are people and food, there is fun.”

Hosting this year’s event was Temple Israel, which completed its synagogue on the former golf course south of 132nd and Pacific Streets in 2013. Across a creek bed is the future Countryside Community Church, scheduled for completion by Easter. A large mound of dirt marks the site of a fourth future building, a tri-faith center that is to be completed by spring 2020. Earthwork also is under way for a circular bridge that will link the structures.

Events such as the picnic, like the campus itself, offer people opportunities to mingle and learn about one another.

FULL ARTICLE FROM OMAHA.COM

A Look at Muslim-Christian Relations in Ethiopia

1515208296516The Muslim-Christian relationship in Ethiopia has a mixed historical background. Ethiopia is located on a religious fault line, although the relationship between the two religions has been reasonably cordial in recent decades. Christian rule has prevailed in the Ethiopian highlands since the early 4th century. Early in the 7th century a group of Arab followers of Islam in danger of persecution by local authorities in Arabia took refuge in the Axumite Kingdom of the Ethiopian highlands.

As a result of this generosity, the Prophet Mohammed concluded that Ethiopia should not be targeted for jihad. Not all Muslims took this message seriously and subsequent contact was less cordial. In the late 15th century, Islamic raids from the Somali port of Zeila plagued the Ethiopian highlands. In the first half of the 16th century, the Islamic threat became more serious when Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi rallied a diverse group of Muslims in a jihad to end Christian power in the highlands. The Ethiopians finally defeated this threat by the middle of the 16th century.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INTERNATIONAL POLICY DIGEST 

Interfaith solidarity rising in Texas

Muslim_Sorority_TTI spoke at a public library event promoting interfaith awareness in 2012. It didn’t go well.

To be exact, the questions from the audience didn’t go well. I made introductory remarks about my religious tradition, but then the questions started pouring in from people who showed up to the session angry. The questions morphed into angry rants about Sharia and Jihad. Our mosque’s interfaith team tried its best to answer the antagonistic questioners. Nothing helped put out the fires already raging in their minds.

They came seeking validation. No lecture, event or research could change their minds.

I encounter this mindset frequently when talking with Americans of other religious backgrounds. I’m the cause of their problems, say these fellow Americans who have closed their minds to new information. The only source of trusted information, in their mind, is Fox News.

Imagine my surprise when a recent interfaith event went quite differently.

Last month, the Islamic Center of Frisco hosted our annual Interfaith Ramadan Iftar. Of the 150 Texans who joined us, approximately 90 were not Muslim. The overwhelming majority had never attended an iftar — an after-sunset dinner during Ramadan — nor stepped inside a mosque before. A wide cross-section of community leaders attended, including representatives of non-profit organizations and local school districts. Even a few of our elected leaders showed up. All accepted this invitation to learn and break bread and the fast with their Muslim neighbors. It was an evening of warmth, love and eventual understanding as they learned about Ramadan. Attendees expressed fascination at how their Muslim neighbors fast for 18 hours without food or drink.

We then had the question and answer session. Someone asked about Sharia law. A sudden wave of anxiety flooded my senses. Our mosque’s scholar explained Sharia so beautifully and ended by saying that politically, Americans are made to fear Sharia. Sharia is not political. Sharia is just the set of guidelines Muslims use to live by (ie. how to fast, how to give charity, etc.). The gentleman, surprisingly, was truly grateful for this clarification. After the call to prayer, which signifies the breaking of the fast, those of us who are Muslim prayed and then headed to dinner.

While we were serving our guests, the common response was that we need to eat because we’ve been fasting for so long. During fasting and even after, you attain this level of spirituality in which your body craves all that is good for your soul. Islam teaches us to give utmost respect and hospitality to guests — a concept with which they were not familiar.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TRIBTALK

Senegal, where Christians and Muslims live together in peace

15114530511516878353By Cristina UguccioniI
“If relations between Christians and Muslims in other countries were as serene as those living in Senegal, there would be more peace on earth. Here the cohabitation between the faithful of the two religions is neither a theme nor a motive for discussion since it is lived as a fact”. These are Flavio Facchin’s words, a 55 years old priest, belonging to the Congregation of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, he is currently the treasurer of the Senegalese missions. He arrived in this country 20 years ago and for a decade he led the parish of Maria Immacolata, the only parish in Parcelles Assainies, a large suburb of Dakar where most of the population is of Islamic faith (95%, as in the rest of the country).

The gift of a crucifix
On July 16,2016, during a solemn ceremony, Moussa Sy, the Muslim Mayor appointed Father Flavio honorary citizen and gave him the keys to the city because of the many works that the missionary, together with the parish, promoted for the benefit of the whole community.

“I remember that the mayor wanted to give me a personal gift on that day,” Father Flavio says. It was a painting that portrayed the crucifix. I was moved by the gift and surprised by the choice: I was expecting it to feature the Virgin Mary as Muslims take Her very much into account and even come to church to pray before the statue of Our Lady. Instead, the mayor chose the crucifix, which in Muslim culture is little understood. I remember that in his speech he said, “My second religion is the Church. For him Christianity identified with the church he had had the opportunity to know. We have been working together for many years looking for the best solutions to help the population and there has always been great understanding among us”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MALAYSIA HERALD

Students’ Muslim Center visit offers interfaith experience

ct-ctlfl-mgc-muslim-center-poetry-pals-3-20180117Jack, a sixth-grader from Chicago’s Bernard Zell Jewish Day School, threw himself like a rag doll onto the rubber gym floor of the Muslim Community Center Academy in Morton Grove Thursday, pantomiming a Christmas tree being felled by a gang of Irish-dancing squirrels.

The 11-year-old’s theatrics drew giggles from the dozen other pre-teens in his group — some wearing hijabs, others plaid skirts — who were brought together by the Olive Tree Arts Network and tasked with combining their imaginations into a single, wacky story.

Jack’s group was among 150 students brought together by the network’s Poetry Pals program, which every year has students from Catholic, Muslim and Jewish Day schools participate in a shared curriculum focused on creative expression and cultural learning.

Getting the students to act out fantastical stories based on their religious customs is a subtle way of building tighter bonds across faiths, according to Ilene Siemer, director of the arts network.

“This is a really important stage in kids’ lives, because they don’t really have pre-seeded notions of each other yet,” Siemer said. “So we’re able to effectively convey how much we all have in common without having to deal with any of the baggage that many adults may carry.”

Earlier this year, students from Bernard Zell and the Muslim academy visited St. John Fisher School in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood, where students led presentations on Catholic rituals and beliefs.

On Thursday, it was the Muslim students’ turn to educate their peers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

EGYPT: “NO SINGLE MINUTE IS INVESTED IN VAIN” – HOW A DOCTOR PROMOTES RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE VIA HEALTH WORK

Freddy_ElbaiadyFreddy Elbaiady has made history as a politician. But what counts most for the 46-year-old Egyptian doctor is his work at the Salam Medical Center (SMC) in El-Qanatir, north of Cairo. The bridges between Christians and Muslims that are built through this work are sustainable even in times of crisis.

Dr Elbaiady has many professions and ministries. He is a respected radiologist in Cairo, runs a medical centre in his hometown El-Qanatir, is a member of the local church council, and is involved in evangelical church politics in his capacity as one of the members of the Supreme Council of Protestant Churches in Egypt. To the wider public he became known in 2013, when he accepted an offer to join the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament as one of the few Christian members. TV news programs were and still are happy to invite him for discussions on interreligious coexistence, the role of the churches in Egypt and politics in general. No doubt, this man has influence and prestige. But if asked to talk about himself he remains reticent.

His office in the medical centre has surprisingly very simple decor. No thick desk, no leather furniture to receive guests. Dr Elbaiady receives visitors in a small room. In the rear part there is an examination table for consultation. He is content with the front as his office. Only the wooden nameplate on the small desk reveals his role as CEO. Dr Elbaiady works at a large private hospital in Cairo, where he chairs the radiology department. From there, he arrives at SMC by around 3pm, where he works until after midnight, often into the early hours of the morning. “I get along with little sleep”, he says matter-of-factly.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SIGHT MAGAZINE