Children of Abraham
Today as never before our world is confronted by the reality of religious and cultural pluralism. Many of us have had the luxury of living in a society where there was little necessary contact with those of other faith communities, but the world grows increasingly smaller. It is absolutely essential that we all begin to seek a fuller understanding of each other and begin to look at the spiritual health of the whole world. Such a search deepens our own faith even as it increases our understanding of others. It is in response to that mission that St. George’s College Jerusalem offers its first explicitly interfaith course: Children of Abraham, perhaps unique in receiving the blessings of both the Grand Mufti and the Chief Rabbi. Lecturers from both Islam and Judaism will join our own faculty in leading us. The course focuses on the theology, history and common heritage in the Holy Land of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (the three Abrahamic faiths). In each tradition it will address the themes of Covenant, Election, Promise, Law, and Faith. It will discuss the importance of Land and the cultural implications as each faith develops. Abraham, the towering figure of the Genesis narratives, is the original model of faith and fidelity in all three religions. It is Abraham who stands at the center of this course, providing hope in our search for a common spiritual experience that may transcend historical conflicts. Convergences and divergences in relations between the three traditions are traced through a study of texts relating to Abraham in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Scriptures. Jerusalem provides an ideal setting for such a discussion since the dialogue can be heightened by excursions to places holy to the three faiths, visits to synagogues, churches, and mosques, and even to private homes of each faith for conversation. The lecturers will challenge us to open discussion and debate on interpretation and will hopefully send us to St. George’s College Library for research and study. As with every St. George’s College course, participants are invited to make connections with their own faith commitments and to link their experiences in the Holy Land with their lives back home. Children of Abraham is a course with a particular focus, and will NOT take participants to all of the famous holy sites and tourist spots in Israel and Palestine. Places of relevance to the theme of interfaith dialogue and the life of Abraham will be visited in Jerusalem, the Galilee and the Negev Desert. This course is ideal for those who have already visited the Holy Land and now wish to focus their attention. Course members are encouraged to have some background knowledge of the texts and traditions of each faith tradition before they arrive. A recommended reading list is provided.
For a sample of the itinerary, please click here
Sharing Perspectives: Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land
What is the shape of Islam in the contemporary Holy Land? For many people, especially in the West, Islam is monochrome and homogeneous. But, historically, Islam, the first shock to the rule of Christendom in the Holy Land, has developed to include many factions. Though Sunnism appears from the fifth century of Islam (eleventh century of the Christian era) with coherent religious identity focused around the Unity of God, the imitation of the Prophet, coherent worship and ethics, there were different branches that have shaped what we call today Sunnism, comprising of Sufi orders, modernist Muslim movements, and political Islam, each giving a different face to what we call today ‘Islam’. One major schismatic branch of Islam that is distinguished from Sunnism with its political and religious ideology and with mass following was Shiism. Shiism is not a monolithic movement either. Its provenance goes back to political dissent among the first Muslims. However, its character was not only shaped by political ideas. Posthumous supporters of the fourth Caliph Ali, unhappy with the corruption of the political leaders of Umayyad Damascus, developed a theory of religious authority vested in their charismatic Imams. This in turn reflects the lack of coherent religious authority in the first few centuries of Islam. Shiism, however, as it developed later was highly productive of splinter groups and movements, such as the Ismailis, the Twelver Shiites, the Alawites, the Druze, The Bahais, and The Ahmadiyya movement. The Holy Land is famous for being a Land loyal to Sunni Islam, but has its share of the different faces of Sufi, modernist and political Sunnism. Despite the lack of allegiance to Shiism here, the Holy Land is home to different sub-movements of Shiism, mainly the Druze, Bahaism, and the Ahmadiyya in particular. It is not as though there is a clear Islamic political and religious system on offer here. This course at St. George’s College aims to offer a basis to understand and relate to the complexity of the different faces of Islam as represented in the Holy Land today. What are the implications for the political reality here? And what does the Church and the Churches of the Holy Land have to offer in response to this diversity as a basis for moral society?
Risen With Christ
This course enables participants to study aspects of the liturgical traditions of some of the Eastern Churches in Jerusalem, as well as to attend some of the Easter liturgies over Eastern Holy Week and Easter. For a sample of the itinerary, please click here Ways in the Wilderness This course reflects a growing interest in wilderness spirituality. Excursions begin at Jerusalem, and reach Cairo, the monasteries of Egypt, Mount Sinai and Jordan (including Petra). Some nights are spent under the stars, in tent encampments, and in monastery guest houses. Focus is on prayer, reflection on the scriptures and traditions of the desert mystics, and explorations of the silent desert vastness. Applicants must be physically fit for a challenging and rewarding wilderness adventure. For a sample of the itinerary, please click here