Merrimack presents award to interfaith historian, scholar

Yousef Waleed Meri accepted this year's $25,000 Goldziher Prize during a festive ceremony at the Rogers Center for the Arts.

“I am privileged and honored to be here at Merrimack College,” Meri said.

Meri earned the biennial award based on his scholarship and teachings in Jewish-Muslim relations.

The prize is awarded by Merrimack’s Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. Funding for the prize is provided by the William and Mary Greve Foundation and its principal John Kiser.

Meri called it a privilege and honor to receive the prize.

The recipient is religious historian scholar of Middle Ages and Islam, focusing on relations between Muslim and other religions. His work supports mutual respect and understanding between Jewish and Muslim faiths while discouraging prejudice and partisanship in favor of mutual respect and understanding between Jewish and Muslim faiths.

The Chicago native is a prolific writer on the subject who has studied and taught in the United States, England, Germany and Jordan. He’s currently working as a visiting professor at the University of Jordan’s Department of Studies of Islam in the Contemporary World in Amman.

Meri enjoys sharing his opinions in a tripart conversation fostering interfaith relations, he said.

“I think we should strive to create a positive and constructive environment,” he said.

Historians have a duty and responsibility to foster positive environments with students and faculty wherever they are but especially in the Middle East where there is little religious tolerance, with the exception of Jordan, Meri said.

The Goldziher Prize fits well with the college’s Agenda for Distinction, developing a contemporary Catholic mission, said the Rev. Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A., Merrimack’s vice president for mission and student affairs It’s important to work toward mutual understanding among faiths, he said.

Gatherings for events such as the Goldziher Prize makes people better Catholics helps people become who they are called to be, Dlugos said.

“And when we are the best of who we are called to be we will all find the truth, unity, love and peace that we all long for,” he said.

The Rev. David C. Michael, associate director of the Boston Archdiocesan office of ecumenical and interreligious affairs offered congratulations on behalf of the archdiocese.

The church is committed to interfaith relations and recognizes it’s difficult work but believes the world is a better place for the effort, Michael said.

“It requires vision, perseverance, mutual respect,” he said.

Mohamed Lazzouni, a Ph.D., chairman of the center’s advisory board, said the center has an uplifting message and its leadership offers a voice of respect and inclusion.

He has traveled extensively in Muslim countries for about 18 months and has seen a shift in attitudes toward interfaith dialoge and often talks about Merrimack.

“I notice that interfaith discourse in the Muslim community has shifted from the periphery to the center of discourse,” Lazzouni said.

The Rev. Diane Kessler, the executive director emerita at the Massachusetts Council of Churches was master of ceremonies.

Finalists for the prize this year included Ingrid Mattson, who’ the London and Windsor community chair in Islamic studies at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario in Canada; and Edward Kessler, the founder and executive director of the Woolf Institute and fellow of St. Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge in England.

The award was presented by Lazzouni, jury chairman Joseph Montville; and co-chairs Asma Afsaruddin and Yehezkel Landau.




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