As religious and worldview diversity continues to play a prominent role in public affairs in the United States, many institutions of higher education are looking for holistic ways to foster interfaith cooperation and pluralism on campus. One of the emerging discussions within this work is how interfaith engagement can be addressed within the college or university classroom in an academically rigorous way. Many scholars invested in these discussions are claiming a new interdisciplinary field called Interfaith and/or Interreligious Studies. As this growing field takes shape, important questions arise: what are the learning outcomes of Interfaith and Interreligious Studies, and what might it look like to develop courses that help students achieve those learning outcomes? How might faculty from disparate fields share theoretical insights and effective pedagogical practices?
Through our work in support of this emerging field, and participation in events and panels put forth by the Interfaith and Interreligious Studies program unit at the American Academy of Religion, IFYC offers the following working definition of Interfaith Studies:
"Interfaith Studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the multiple dimensions of how people who orient around religion differently interact with one another, and the implications of these interactions for communities, civil society, and global politics."
Scholarship and pedagogy in Interfaith Studies addresses questions both of theory – e.g. what do we mean by interfaith dialogue, and how has dialogue historically presented itself in different socio-political contexts? – and praxis: e.g., how do we assess the effectiveness of interreligious cooperation in any particular context? A major goal of Interfaith Studies programs is the development of a cadre of professionals who can assume the mantle “interfaith leader,” defined as someone with the vision, knowledge, and skill set to help individuals and communities who orient around religion differently in civil society and politics build mutual respect, positive relationships, and a commitment to the common good.
As a working definition of an emerging field, we look to faculty colleagues and emerging scholars to both build upon and expand this definition through their teaching and research. In support of this field’s sustainable growth, IFYC seeks opportunities for our faculty network to be brought into a mutually enriching conversation that further establishes the contours of this developing field. Explore our Faculty Resource Library and Teaching Interfaith Understanding Library for examples of syllabi, teaching tactics, and academic programs that focus on questions and themes related to Interfaith Studies.
IFYC uses the name “Interfaith Studies” as a shorthand for this field, recognizing that others prefer “Interreligious Studies” or another term. While it could be argued that the term “interfaith” carries particular or restrictive connotations, we believe that this term best encapsulates the intricacies of a field focused on interactions between individuals and communities, and likewise encourage others to use their preferred language to describe this exciting new field.