News Agencies – June 15, 2012
Students at the University of Toronto have set a goal of raising $70,000 by September to fund a year-long contract for the first-ever full-time Muslim chaplain on a Canadian campus. In a video on the campaign website various young people make the case for donations. “I had to sit in class and listen to my professor tell me Islam degrades women,” says one young woman. “In my field, relationships are built at the bar. What am I supposed to do about that?,” says a young man. “There’s something about mosques that makes me uncomfortable,” says another man.
Muslim Chaplains provide spiritual guidance at dozens of universities in the United States. Unlike Imams, chaplains may be women. The chaplain’s role includes spiritual guidance for students and interfaith work too. Richard Chambers, director of the Multi-Faith Centre at the University of Toronto told the Toronto Star that a Muslim Chaplaincy could help fix an “imbalance” created by the fact that Jewish and Christian campus groups have full-time staff, while Muslim groups currently rely on volunteers.
Research by the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK at Cardiff University has found that chaplaincy, usually associated with the Christian faith, is a rapidly expanding sphere of work for Muslim professionals. Muslim chaplains play an increasing role in linking Muslim communities with public organizations; they can now be found in prisons, hospitals, airports, courts, higher education, and the military. The research project led my Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray aimed at exploring the background, training, role, and impact of Muslim chaplains in Britain. The project found that Muslim chaplains are highly motivated in their work and, especially those working in a health care context, had a “strong Islamic” justification for their work. Furthermore, the research found that ‘female chaplains played a vital role in client-family relationships and negotiations, and that Muslims chaplains have mostly integrated well within multi-faith chaplaincy teams’ (BBC News).
A one day conference to mark the launch of the Association of Muslim Chaplains in Education was hosted at Brunel University in West London. The conference, held on June 25, was attended by over 80 participants of different faith communities and from different parts of the UK. Bill Rammell, MP for Lifelong Learning and Education addressed the conference via video link and welcomed the launch of the Association. I am clear that a trained Muslim chaplain can be an effective safeguard for those students who may otherwise be vulnerable to violent extremist political influences. He said, Properly trained Muslim chaplains can play a significant part in meeting pastoral care needs and that a trained Muslim chaplain can be an effective safeguard for those students who may otherwise be vulnerable to violent extremist political influences. Professor Chris Jenks, Vice Chancellor of Brunel University talked about the importance of the presence of Muslim chaplains on campus and the path Brunel has taken towards a Multi Faith approach. Muslim Chaplains on campus was widely acknowledged as recognition of the fact that Islam was not the faith of the stranger or temporary resident but one of the mainstream faith traditions in our society. The work of Muslim Chaplains in education in promoting community cohesion was also acknowledged.