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July 2022

Dialogue is disruptive

From Supreme Court rulings to January 6th hearings, we have had a bright spotlight on the political and social polarization in our country. Emotions are raw and discussions quickly turn into arguments. Many of us are asking ourselves, as people of faith who believe in an interreligious society where religious difference becomes a powerful force for good, what do we do? How can we respond?

We cannot ignore or paper over the controversies and conflicts facing us as a country—but we are in a moment when we can do this differently. Instead of shouting at one another, taking to Twitter to attack those we disagree with, we need to disrupt the polarizing narrative.

One of the most disruptive things we can do at this moment is dialogue—to talk with someone who disagrees with us. We need dialogue instead of debate.

As a staff, we collected our own hard-won ideas on how best to do this. Here are six ideas (plus some links to news stories or articles we’ve found compelling) to get you started. 

Highlights in this Issue:


Watch courses on demand

Did you see an ICJS course that interested you, but you just couldn’t fit it into your schedule? Did you miss a session? Or did you hear something challenging or fascinating that you wanted to hear again? 

Then you’ll want to visit our ICJS Courses on Demand. Course videos, along with the readings and other resources provided by our scholars, are available at any time. We currently have four courses online and will add more as they become available. Our current courses include:


Do you know a teacher looking to support an interreligious classroom? 

With the new Supreme Court case on prayer in schools, teachers are looking for help in navigating how both to teach about religion and to support religiously diverse classrooms. Space is still available for two upcoming ICJS programs offering professional development for secondary educators who teach in a wide array of humanities at public, private, or religious schools. 

Teachers Summer Institute is a workshop held in person at ICJS from July 18-22. In the mornings, educators will learn to recognize how classroom instruction and atmosphere can help disarm religious bias and bigotry, and to workshop and share curriculum ideas. Field trips in the afternoons will take participants to area religious sites to experience the diverse religious landscape of Baltimore.

Teachers Fellowship is a 10-month (October 2022 to June 2023) cohort experience for Baltimore-area educators to explore how to provide students with an informed appreciation of the religious diversity that contributes to civic life. Educators will become equipped to foster interreligious literacy in their classrooms and to become interreligious leaders in their schools.


Religion enlivens a Spanish curriculum
By Maximo Alvaro, 2021-2022 Teacher Fellow

Does religion belong in a language class, alongside learning to conjugate verbs? An ICJS Teacher Fellow found that he could make his Spanish class more interesting and relevant to his students by including the study of religion and culture in Latin American countries.

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Empathy and education as an antidote to religious literacy
By Niki Creamer, 2021-2022 Teacher Fellow

As a religion teacher, Niki Creamer spends a lot of her time making sure that her students absorb and memorize information about world religions. However, learning from ICJS scholars' lived experience showed her the importance of personal storytelling in religious learning. 

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Spotlight | A groundbreaking experience for Muslim & Christian emerging religious leaders

Over five days of mutual learning, challenging discussion, and blossoming friendships, a group of more than two dozen emerging Muslim and Christian religious leaders recently engaged in an innovative intensive course in interreligious dialogue. The Emerging Religious Leaders (ERL) course, held in early June on the campus of Virginia Theological Seminary, is a groundbreaking program for Muslim and Christian students in the U.S.

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Recap | On Being Muslim
ICJS Muslim Scholar Zeyneb Sayilgan, Ph.D.

What attracts and sustains the 1.8 billion people around the world who embrace the tenets of Islam? In this brief introduction to the beliefs and practice of Islam, Zeyneb Sayilgan describes how Muslims understand and practice their faith. “Islam has three dimensions addressing the mind, the heart, and the body,” she said. The goal is to bring all three into harmony: “This is not an easy task, this is a lifelong task. To become Muslim is a journey.”

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Recap | Mosque visitors experience the beauty of Islam

As a companion experience to her course on Muslim Prayer in America, ICJS Muslim Scholar Zeyneb Sayilgan led class participants, as well as staff and friends of ICJS, on a tour of the Diyanet Center of America, a mosque built in the Ottoman style located in Lanham, Md. The group had the opportunity to experience the beauty of Islam by attending afternoon prayer, touring the mosque with the architect who designed it, and hearing a recitation of the Qur'an. 

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Staff Pick | There is no one 'religious view' on abortion

Heather Miller Rubens, ICJS executive director and Roman Catholic scholar, recommends this article from The Conversation, an online site, on the complexity and diversity of religious views on abortion. “When it comes to official stances on abortion, religions’ positions are tied to different approaches to some key theological concepts,” writes Samira Mehta, a scholar of religion and gender. “For instance, for several religions, a key issue in abortion rights is ‘ensoulment,’ the moment at which the soul is believed to enter the body – that is, when a fetus becomes human. The catch is that traditions place ensoulment at different moments and give it various degrees of importance.”

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About Us 

The Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS) works to dismantle religious bias and bigotry to foster an interreligious society in which dialogue replaces division, friendship overcomes fear, and education eradicates ignorance. Through courses, fellowships, online events, and scholarship initiatives, ICJS builds learning communities where religious difference becomes a powerful force for good. ICJS is an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization.


Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies
956 Dulaney Valley Rd  | Baltimore, Maryland 21204
410.494.7161 | info@icjs.org | icjs.org

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