The University of San Francisco will host a national conference Apr. 10 and 11 to examine the mission of Catholic Jesuit universities in relation to the growing presence of Muslim faculty, staff, and students on Jesuit campuses. This is the first ever national-scale conference for Jesuit institutions to discuss Christian-Muslim relations.
The national conference, organized by Islamic Studies Professor Aysha Hidayatullah and Theology & Religious Studies Program Assistant Monica Doblado, will allow attendees to discuss issues of Islam, Muslim and Christian-Muslim relations at Jesuit institutions across the country. They intend to address various concerns, including diversity, interreligious engagement, and teaching, in relation to the growth of Islamic studies and Muslim populations at Jesuit institutions.
Although there have been other academic gatherings discussing Christian-Muslim relations, Hidayatullah wanted to have the first national conference to bring together faculty and staff from Jesuit institutions on a wider scale. This conference for Jesuit colleges and universities, the first of its kind, welcomes 24 of the 28 U.S. Jesuit institutions, according to Hidayatullah.
“The events of 9/11 brought Islam to the forefront of the national consciousness, and we’ve seen an intense demand for more information and university education on Islam,” Hidayatullah said. “We’ve seen a marked growth in Islamic studies classes and faculty, as well as Muslim populations, at U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities. It seemed crucial to me to ask what this growth means for the Catholic Jesuit mission and identity of our institutions, and how we are supporting this growth.”
Some students believe it is important to discuss and improve the relationship between Muslims and Christians. “We need the cooperation and the cohesion to counteract conflicts around the world,” freshman Abdullah Alnajdi said. “Whatever the religion, humanity is the common factor between us.”
Other students agree, and are proud of the university for hosting the event. “This conference is crucial because it will provide a platform in which we, together as one community, can improve upon the support we are giving to the diverse community we foster at USF,” freshman Sabrina Iman Arsalane said. “Islamophobia is an active demon within our society and the fact that USF has recognized that and has created this space for the community is extremely moving.”
Although registration for the event is closed, there are two events open to the general public: a Muslim Jumu’ah prayer and the keynote session, titled “The Future of Islam at Jesuit Colleges and Universities.”
“Students should go because diversity at USF is not only about race, gender, sexuality, and class — it’s also about religion,” Hidayatullah said. “We simply cannot afford to live in the world today without thinking carefully about our relationships to other religions; understanding religion’s place in our global world is an essential part of a well-rounded education.”
The prayer and keynote session will be in Fromm Hall on Friday at 1:15 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., respectively.