Universities have as an obligation the pursuit of academic excellence, both in the education of their students and in the scholarly engagement of their faculty. In the College of Arts and Sciences, and indeed throughout the University of St. Thomas, we believe strongly that we have an obligation to pursue excellence either directly or indirectly in ways that have relevance to both the local and larger communities in which we exist. That requires not only that we connect with the community but also that we remain true to our liberal arts mission not by standing still, but by advancing initiatives with the potential to have a significant impact.
As a Catholic institution of higher education we have a strong tradition of involvement in faith-based centers that do just this, for example, the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish-Christian Learning and the Center for Catholic Studies. Building on the tradition represented by these important entities, I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to a new center established with this sense of excellence, initiative,and faith at its heart – a center with a focus critical to our time: the Muslim Christian Dialogue Center.
Co-directed by two faculty in the Theology Department, the MCDC’s mission is to “foster mutual understanding and cooperation among Muslims and Christians through academic and community dialogue grounded in the Quranic and Christian traditions. The dialogue flows from the belief that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, who is at work in both faiths.”
This mission is brought to life with a focus on community interaction and traditional academic work. This combination is a point of distinction for the center. In the last year the MCDC has hosted lectures on topics that ranged from our religious commonalities to what it is like to be a Muslim in the United States today. MCDC has run a seminar for local leaders on doing business in Islamic countries. Faculty associated with the center have given more than 20 talks to local groups from both religious traditions and have held dinners and other social gatherings for St. Thomas students. A book project titled The Morality of War: Islamic and Christian Perspectives is almost near completion.
In an age when differences can divide us, the mission of the center to draw on faith from two different traditions to help foster mutual understanding and respect is critical. It is a mission at which we cannot afford to fail. It also is a mission that brings a rich range of opportunities for alumni and friends of the university to engage with these important issues. And in all of these activities, excellence in scholarship, in student learning, and in community engagement is being pursued. We invite your engagement with this new center of excellence at the University of St. Thomas. (Visit www.stthomas.edu/mcdc.)
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