Join a community of scholars teaching interfaith understanding and building the field of interfaith studies
Religious diversity in America is growing at an unprecedented rate. There are a range of responses to the differences that are increasingly felt in every life, from isolation and conflict to active engagement across divides. IFYC believes that the religious diversity of our country is a strength and can be engaged proactively in service to the common good. However, what happens in the coming years depends on the ideas we discuss, the actions we take, and the leaders we prepare today.
As a college educator, you are uniquely positioned to lead a larger cultural shift by engaging questions of religious pluralism in innovative ways. IFYC seeks to support you in this important work through programs and resources focused on curricular engagement of interfaith topics.
Interfaith Studies - A Growing Field to Address a Diverse 21st Century
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 is how interfaith engagement can be addressed in academically rigorous ways in college and university classrooms. Scholars invested in these discussions are claiming a new interdisciplinary field called Interfaith/Interreligious Studies.
In partnership with scholars in the field, 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."
Interfaith Studies scholarship and pedagogy addresses questions of both theory – e.g. what do we mean by interfaith dialogue, and how has it 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? Interfaith Studies programs seek to develop civic leaders who are prepared to positively engage religious diversity and build interfaith cooperation in communities and professions throughout the country.
As the field of Interfaith Studies grows, IFYC seeks to convene scholars interested in this work both to learn from your expertise and connect you with a network of faculty invested in shared questions and concerns.
Join the growing faculty network today to access classroom tools, seminar and networking event opportunities, funding for curriculum development, and syllabi around teaching interfaith understanding, created in partnership with the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC).
2019 Inventory Report
Here are some findings from the 2018 Inventory Report.
When staff, faculty, and administrators have succeeded in establishing interfaith training or professional
development opportunities on campus, many have found unexpected synergies, new partnerships and
impactful encounters as described in the stories from the field below.
Join the Faculty Network
Ph.D. in Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Rose Aslan (Ph.D. in Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at California Lutheran University (Thousand Oaks, CA). At Cal Lutheran, Rose teaches courses...
Rose Aslan (Ph.D. in Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at California Lutheran University (Thousand Oaks, CA). At Cal Lutheran, Rose teaches courses on global religions, the Abrahamic traditions, and Islam, and is an active voice for interfaith issues on campus. Rose’s specialties include Islam and Muslim societies, ritual practices, sacred space and pilgrimage, and Interfaith and Interreligious Studies.
Rose’s Connections with IFYC
Rose began working with IFYC in 2015, when she applied for and was subsequently selected to attend a faculty development seminar called “Teaching Interfaith Understanding,” a program that IFYC and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) have co-hosted each summer since 2014. After the seminar, Rose worked to revise her introductory Religious Studies course, titled “Religion, Identity, and Vocation”, in an effort to enhance interfaith themes. The course focused the most on Christianity, and Rose expanded her syllabus to consider core values of Lutheran higher education such as pluralism and interfaith cooperation. Rose revised this course with support from a Curriculum Development Grant from IFYC during the summer of 2016. Alongside this curricular revision work, Rose helped to execute a conference co-hosted by IFYC and Cal Lutheran called “Interfaith Studies: Curricular Programs and Core Competencies”, which took place on Cal Lutheran’s campus during the spring of 2016 and involved about 125 scholars from more than 60 institutions.
Rose’s Current Interfaith Projects: Course Work, Research, and Scholarship
A number of Rose’s current courses at Cal Lutheran focus on interfaith competencies, or include a module/section that engages interfaith topics. Rose often structures courses with engaged or experiential learning elements, one such example being her “Park 51 Role Playing Activity”. Rose developed this role playing activity for use in her courses as a way to help make real for students moments of interfaith encounter, tension, conflict, or cooperation - in this case, around the development of Park 51 in New York City shortly after 9/11. You can find this assignment activity (and others like it) in IFYC and CIC’s Teaching Interfaith Understanding resource library.
Outside of the classroom, Rose is actively researching and writing on a number of topics that intersect with Interfaith and Interreligious Studies, her most current research project focuses on the ritual practice of Muslims in post-9/11 United States. Her research interests include the construction of sacred space, ritual, and pilgrimage in medieval and contemporary Islamic contexts, as well as the material culture of Islam. With her own institutional context in mind, she has published an article in a (forthcoming) volume of The Muslim World called “Vocation and Identity Through the Study of Islam: Finding Pluralism at a Lutheran University,” which discusses the dynamics of teaching about Islam and pluralism at an ELCA institution that is rapidly responding to the realities of a changing student body and increasingly diverse campus community.
Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, 1998
Jonathan Golden (Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, 1998) is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Comparative Religion at Drew University (Madison, NJ). At Drew, Jonathan also serves as the...
Jonathan Golden (Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, 1998) is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Comparative Religion at Drew University (Madison, NJ). At Drew, Jonathan also serves as the Director of Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict, an interdisciplinary center that focuses on interfaith leadership and global peacebuilding. Jonathan specializes in the study of ancient and modern cultures of the Middle East, and his current research interests include religious and ethnic conflict, terrorism, and Interfaith Studies. Alongside this scholarly work, Jonathan holds several certificates in conflict resolution and works closely with interfaith and peace-building organizations both locally and internationally. Jonathan is an observant Jew who draws inspiration from great Jewish thinkers from Rambam and Hillel to AJ Heschel and Joachim Prinz in both his personal and professional life.
Jonathan’s Connections with IFYC
Jonathan began working with IFYC in 2014, when he applied for and was subsequently selected to attend a faculty development seminar called “Teaching Interfaith Understanding,” a program that IFYC and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) have co-hosted each summer since 2014. After attending the seminar, Jonathan became a faculty leader on campus in regards to interfaith initiatives and curricula. Over the years, Jonathan has partnered with IFYC to execute two curricularly-focused grant projects (generously funded by the Teagle Foundation and the James F. Kemper Foundation), helping to shape interfaith-focused academic courses and programs at his institution. Jonathan also serves as a mentor for student leaders interested in interfaith work, and regularly recruits cohorts of students to be trained at IFYC’s Interfaith Leadership Institutes. Jonathan continues to participate IFYC’s programs in this way, and connects with IFYC staff regularly in person (at conferences such as the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting), over the phone, or via email.
Jonathan’s Current Interfaith Projects: Course Work, Research, Scholarship, and Community Engagement
Jonathan teaches in the Departments of Religious Studies and Anthropology, the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, and the Theology School at Drew University. Many of Jonathan’s undergraduate courses directly address interfaith topics, one of which being a first-year seminar called “Global Peacebuilding and Interfaith Leadership”. This course seeks to teach students the qualities, skills, and knowledge base of interfaith leadership, and will serve as the first course students are expected to take in the Drew’s forthcoming Global Peace and Interfaith Scholars Program. To teach this course, Jonathan draws upon learning modules available in the “Introduction to Interfaith Leadership” curriculum, a free curricular resource created by IFYC and Dominican University and has used IFYC-founder Eboo Patel’s books as course texts.
Alongside his course work, Jonathan is currently conducting research and writing a book that engages interfaith themes. Jonathan’s forthcoming book is called Turning Point, which highlights the experiences of ex-combatants, victims, and survivors of ethno-religious conflict. For this project, Jonathan interviews ex-combatants and survivors who have all experienced a “turning point” towards becoming peace activists in conflict-ridden areas, namely in Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, Nigeria, and across the U.S. For this work, Jonathan’s anthropological background is key, as he draws upon social contexts and personal interaction/storytelling to research and write this text.
Over the years, Jonathan has also become a mentor for student-led interfaith initiatives at Drew. Alongside his teaching and writing, Jonathan is helping students plan and execute a tutoring project with new refugees called the “New Neighbors School Success Program.” Many refugee families have recently resettled in New Jersey near Drew’s campus, and the University’s Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict together with the Center for Civic Engagement are coordinating a community-wide effort to help to address their need for supplementary educational services. The New Neighbors School offers tutoring services to complement new students’ public-school experiences, while providing badly needed educational materials school supplies. This service program also seeks to also build community relationships, bringing together both Drew student volunteers with partners from the local community. In November of 2017, Drew will be hosting an interfaith conference with the theme of “Welcoming the Stranger”, funded by a grant from IFYC.
Ph. D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Georgetown University, 2012
Younus Y. Mirza (Ph. D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Georgetown University, 2012) is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Allegheny College. A major thrust of Younus’ research has been to question the current...
Younus Y. Mirza (Ph. D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Georgetown University, 2012) is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Allegheny College. A major thrust of Younus’ research has been to question the current narrative that Medieval Muslims only engaged the Bible and other religions for polemical purposes. He shows that Medieval Muslim scholars actively read the Bible through Arabic translations to better understand Judaism and Christianity and to explain sections of the Qur’an that have biblical allusions. This “intertextuality” or reading the Qur’an and Bible together has unfortunately declined in modern times with the onslaught of colonialism. Younus hopes that his research can be an inspiration for peaceful co-existence between Islam and other faiths by seeing the Qur’an as part of the biblical heritage.
Younus’ Connections with IFYC
Younus began working with IFYC in 2014, when he applied for and was subsequently selected to attend a faculty development seminar called “Teaching Interfaith Understanding,” a program that IFYC and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) have co-hosted each summer since 2014. After the seminar, Younus worked to revise a course he frequently taught, called “Islam and Other Religions.” While this course continues to examine historical and contemporary interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims, Younus adapted his syllabus to explore interfaith efforts in the Muslim American community. During the spring of 2016, Younus revised this course with support from a Curriculum Development Grant from IFYC. In this way, Younus continues to participate in IFYC’s programs, and connects with IFYC staff regularly in person (at conferences such as the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting), over the phone, or via email.
Younus’ Current Interfaith Projects: Course Work, Scholarship, and Community Engagement
A number of Younus’ courses at Allegheny focus on interfaith competencies, or include a module/section that engages interfaith topics. When revising his “Islam and Other Religions” course, Younus worked to forge deeper connections with Muslim communities in his area. Erie, Pennsylvania (about 50 minutes away from Allegheny in Meadville, PA) is home to Muslim refugees from across the world, namely Iraq, Bosnia, and Somalia. Learning this, Younus decided to integrate an experiential learning module about Muslim immigrants within this course, allowing students to have direct encounters with immigrating Muslims through service projects at Erie’s refugee relocation center.
Reflecting upon this community-focused activity, Younus wrote an article called “From Religious Literacy to Social Action: How I Discuss the Global Refugee Crisis Within Our Classes,” in which he states, “My goal is to use the challenge of refugee resettlement as a living case study to teach interreligious engagement and democratic participation." Among students, the trip was considered a great success. Many expressed a greater understanding of the current refugee crisis, and how challenges around immigration are exacerbated by the rise of Islamophobia in a post-9/11 context. Several students and faculty members have since sought additional ways to bring refugee issues to the fore on campus, be it through prolonged community engagement or through curriculum revision.
Off-campus, Younus is an active participant in other national and scholarly endeavors that focus on interfaith topics. Younus partook in a Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) working group on “Vocational Exploration in Multi-Faith Contexts,” which provided a space for scholars to think deeply about vocational discernment and vocation-related practices in multi-faith settings. He has also written scholarly articles that focus on theological interreligious connections, such as “Jews, Christians, and Muslims: People of the Book” (Anselm Companions to the Bible, ed. Corrine L. Carvalho, pages 100-118). He is also a co-author of the forthcoming book “The Bible and the Qur’an: Biblical Figures in the Islamic Tradition”.