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Study Center Focuses on Abrahamic Traditions

January 19, 2017
Merrimack College’s Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations is continuing its long tradition of encouraging relations among the three great monotheistic religions, and for the first time will announce three national awards this spring.

In another first, the center will give the awards to journalists who foster interfaith relations.

The center was founded in 1993 as the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations but expanded in 2008 to its current mission at the suggestion of Rabbi Robert Goldstein, of Temple Emanuel in Andover.

“Rabbi Goldstein encouraged more broad thinking of full tradition of the Abrahamic religions — all religions that trace their heritage back to Abraham,” said professor Joseph T. Kelley, director of the center.

These three traditions have many similar theological doctrines, ethical commitments and spiritual practices, said professor Mark Allman, chairman of the religious and theological studies department and associate dean of the School of Liberal Arts.

“The center’s focus is primarily the academic study of these faiths, but also includes engagement with those working to bring harmony, understanding and appreciation among the three traditions,” Allman said.

It’s important to note that the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations extends its Abrahamic hospitality to all religions; Buddhist and Hindu students often get involved in center research and events, Kelley said.

“We reach out our hospitality to all faiths, even humanists,” he said.

The center has a threefold approach to its mission.

It offers programming, including helping to found the Interfaith Alliance student organization, and also offers students leadership training opportunities.

Second, the center works with the wider Merrimack Valley and North Shore community, including synagogues, mosques, a Hindu temple in Andover, and Protestant and Catholic churches, “to build a community of interfaith understanding and respect, again, by programming that happens at the college or the surrounding community,” Kelley said.

Third, the center works on a national and international level awarding prizes recognizing interfaith work.

Its most prestigious award is the Goldziher Prize, given to those who help advance interfaith relations. Daoud Abudiab, president of the Faith and Culture Center in Nashville, Tennessee, was the 2016 recipient.

The center will award a combined $25,000 in prizes this year to three journalists, with funding from the William and Mary Greve Foundation. Winners will be announced May 1.

The center also provided Interfaith Curriculum Grants for faculty and professional-development providers who offer courses or training programs for interfaith understanding and respect.

Faculty members are often invited to engage in dialogue with visiting Jewish or Christian scholars, Kelley said.

“When we bring writers and scholars from around the world, we do it for the benefit of our students and faculty,” he said.

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