North American Alumni Explore Interfaith Dialogue
Alumni from across North America gathered in Montreal, Canada, for their annual Chapter Group
Meeting at the end of June 2011. The meeting focussed on the theme of Interfaith Dialogue: Challenges, Skills and Strategies
, and featured sessions on the concepts and models of interfaith dialogue as well as the ethical considerations involved.
The meeting included presentations by members of the alumni body on their own experiences of interfaith dialogue, and a panel discussion on the different approaches to interfaith and intra-faith dialogue amongst Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities.The meeting began with an update on the activities of the Chapter Group and an overview of the agenda by the Chapter President, Sabrina A. Bandali
(GPISH Class of 2008) and Secretary, Ryan Makhani (STEP Class of 2009).
The Opening Remarks were delivered by Asif Alidina
, the Institute’s Communications, Development and Alumni Relations Manager, who provided an update on recent developments at the IIS, highlighting the Institute’s vision for its alumni and the contributions they can make. Given the growing number of STEP alumni, Asif also provided an insight into the evolution of the STEP programme and the Institute’s vision for the future.
Professor Patrice Brodeur
, (Canada Research Chair on Islam, Pluralism and Globalisation at the University of Montreal), presented an introduction to interfaith dialogue which discussed various theories of dialogue and the diversity of models that exist. After Professor Brodeur’s presentation, alumni enjoyed a sightseeing tour of Montreal, which highlighted the religious and multicultural heritage of the city.
The following day began with Dr Hussein Rashid
(Associate Editor, Religion Dispatches and Adjunct Professor, Hofstra University, USA) exploring the ethical questions raised by interfaith dialogue through an on-stage discussion with Sabrina Bandali. Following this session, the alumni explored practical scenarios and case studies that brought to light some of the challenges faced by religious communities who wish to engage in interfaith dialogue. Part of the day was also dedicated to presentations from Farhad Mortezaee (GPISH Class of 2005), Noorin Fazal (STEP Class of 2009) and Ryan Makhani (STEP Class of 2009) who shared how interfaith dialogue has been a part of their work.
On the last day, the alumni were joined by local leadership from the Ismaili community for a panel discussion entitled Interfaith versus Intra-faith Dialogue in Muslim, Christian and Jewish Communities
. The Reverend Dr Karen Hamilton
(General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches), Dr Nargis Virani (IIS Alumna and Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the New School, USA), and Dr Barry Levy
(Former Dean of Religious Studies, McGill University, Canada) spoke about their experiences of engaging in both interfaith and intra-faith dialogue.
Following the panel discussion, Dr Eboo Patel
shared his thoughts on interfaith dialogue through a video message about his work with the Interfaith Youth Core, and Hilary Keachie, former Tony Blair Faith Acts Fellow, presented her work on interfaith youth engagement. The meeting concluded with Closing Remarks from Shiraz Kabani
, Head of Operations, Finance and Development, who shared his thoughts on the importance of alumni engagement and the contribution of annual Chapter Group meetings towards fostering a greater sense of group identity amongst the alumni body as well as allowing the IIS to update them on its activities.