Essentials for formatting a mission statement for Interfaith Studies at the university or college level
By Dr. Nathan Kollar
1. Interfaith dialogue deals with religions individually and comparatively from the perspective of diverse fields of study such as sociology, political science, literature, theology, and religious studies. It is interdisciplinary.
2. Its purpose is to bring individuals and institutions together in conversation for mutual understanding and action to benefit the common good of which knowledge, peace, and empathy for each other are of primary importance.
3. At a minimum, it studies and seeks to understand this purpose through all the disciplines that now study religion and religions, while hoping to develop new methods of research and bodies of knowledge unique to interfaith to implement this seeking.
4. In such study the acquisition of factual knowledge of religions includes the admission of mystery and paradox as inherent to our understanding of religions in general and each religion in particular.
5. It accepts change as inherent in all religious manifestations and seeks to identify religious change as it occurs within individuals and religious communities.
6. The recognition of equality among all and empathy for all are both necessary and advocated in all religious encounters titled interfaith. This is not an advocacy of easy relativism, for it recognizes, as David Tracy has said: “Conversation is a game with some hard rules: say only what you mean; say it as accurately as you can; listen to and respect what the other says, however different or other; be willing to correct or defend your opinions if challenged by the conversation partner; be willing to argue if necessary, to confront if demanded, to endure necessary conflict, to change your mind if the evidence suggests it.” (Quoted from Plurality and Ambiguity: Hermeneutics, Religion, Hope, by David Tracy, [Chicago: University of Chicago; San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1987], p. 19.)
7. It recognizes and accepts the need for accountability in the manner in which it describes the various religions as well as the content of each description.
8. It is distinguished from other disciplines by its necessary inclusion of the primacy of mystery, paradox, and empathy in its selection, dissemination, and interchanges of information and by methodologies particular to its field of study.
The above mission statement is excerpted with permission from an article entitled, The Interfaith Movement in a Liminal Age: The Institutionalization of a Movement, by Dr. Nathan R. Kollar. To read the entire article, click here:
Dr. Nathan R. Kollar is professor emeritus of Religious Studies at St. John Fisher College, retired adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education, University of Rochester (Rochester, New York, USA), and co-founder and Chair of the Board of the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue at Nazareth College (Rochester, New York, USA). He is also Associate Editor in Catholic Book Reviews, Interfaith Section. His two most recent books are: Defending Religious Diversity in Public Schools: A Practical Guide for Building Our Democracy and Deepening Our Education (2009) and Spiritualities: Past, Present, and Future – An Introduction (2012). He has recently edited Sacred Texts and Human Contexts: A North American Response to A Common Word between Us and You ( 2014) and the soon to be published (2016) Poverty and Wealth in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. His most recent articles may be found in Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society in ABC-CLIO Data Bases for Higher Education (2012): “What Are the Effects Of Religious Diversity On Social Institutions And Culture?” and “How And When Might Religious Texts Be Studied In Public Schools?” His “The Interfaith Movement in a Liminal Age: The Institutionalization of a Movement,” in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies was published in the Winter, 2016 edition. A recent paper, The Sky is Falling: Individual and Communal Symbol Development During Liminal Times, was delivered at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.