A Day for the History Books

By: Noor-Malika Chishti

Note the date, September 6, 2011, when the newly formed Claremont Lincoln University [CLU] made history. People from different religions/spiritual ways have been having dialog but now, religious leaders from Christianity, Judaism and Islam will be trained within an inter-religious environment at CLU.


Claremont School of Theology has been joined in a consortium by the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, a non-denominational rabbinical school based in Westwood, and the Islamic Center of Southern California [ICSC], in Los Angeles. ICSC has launched Bayan College where Muslims from Sunni, Shia, and Sufi orientations will be trained in a standardized program.


The generosity and vision of David Lincoln, a Claremont trustee, and his wife, Joan, has created this opportunity. Other traditions are already looking into joining the CLU program, and on the morning of CLU’s opening convocation, the Jain community was welcomed into the mix with the announcement of a newly added program in Jain Studies.


This is not about merging religions; Jerry Campbell, Claremont School of Theology president explained; each division will control religious education and will come together with the other schools in order to help generate mutual respect and skill in solving community issues.


South African Ambassador to the USA, Ebrahim Rasool, addressed this in his Keynote address, “… among the Conservative Orthodoxies of our respective faith traditions… We must demonstrate that we are neither constructing a new eclectic religion, nor forfeiting identities…”


Sacred readings from the four religions deeply moved Ambassador Rasool who shared, “I must confess that I did not know the richness of the holy chants we just experienced until they were explained, nor did I expect the synergy to be found with humanist and secular yearnings for human beings to find relationships with each other, in order to increase understanding in a world desperate for a new way of doing things, a new way of thinking about each other, and new ways of shaping our future.”


CLU can be a remedy to what the Ambassador referred to as, “the lost skill of humankind,” and that is “recognizing the Divine in each other…. How do we speak to the divine in the other before we speak to his race or nationality?” In closing, Ambassador Rasool offered this, “Yet, it is precisely in ceding to each and every human being the status of being a fellow carrier of the Divine that transforms us from minimally doing no harm to maximally co-operating for good; from tolerating each other to accepting each other; and from living in equilibrium to living in peaceful co-existence. What we celebrate today is our willingness to graduate from the platitudes of interfaith dialogue and engagement for short term goals, all of which are crucial, to an experiment that seeks to transform the teaching of religion and faith as a precondition for any religious ambition to transform and improve the world.”


Members of the Islamic Center of Southern California are blessed to have leaders that actively pursue this work. Training imams has been traditionally done in established Middle Eastern schools; Bayan College and Zaytuna Institute in Northern California are providing exciting new opportunities for Islamic education. It is through the efforts of leaders like Dr. Maher Hathout and his late brother, Dr. Hassan Hathout, Najeeba Syeed-Miller [Assistant Professor of Interreligious Education at CLU],  and Imam Jihad Turk [Director of Religious Affairs for ICSC and Bayan College liaison for CLU] that the moderate voice of Islam is being heard in the USA.  ICSC has been involved in interfaith work for over 30 years and is a great place to get connected to cutting-edge peacemaking.

Convocation 2011 from Claremont on Vimeo.

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