Award-winning author, columnist, and professor Samuel Freedman featured five Augsburg College community members in a commentary for The New York Times’ On Religion section. The piece, “Muslim College Chaplains Extend a Hand Across Religious Divides,” highlighted the work of Muslim Student Program Associate and Chaplain Fardosa Hassan ’12.
As Freedman reported, Hassan is among dozens of chaplains on college and university campuses across the U.S. to “play a vital dual role: helping Muslim students feel welcome, and introducing Islam to non-Muslims.”
This work, according to Hassan, has the potential to assist students during their college days and positively influence individuals’ lives long after graduation.
“My role is to help students negotiate this multifaith, diverse environment,” Hassan explained to Freedman. “I’m going to give them a tool for when they go out of this institution, so they know how to be respectful of others. A lot of times, people are afraid even to ask the questions of people who are different. So I say, begin with friendship. Start by saying hello.”
In his column, Freedman acknowledges that interfaith conversations are meaningful and necessary not only on Augsburg’s campus but also just beyond its borders in Minneapolis.
Augsburg “is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has traditionally attracted the vast majority of its students from white Protestant denominations,” he writes. “Yet its campus directly abuts the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood that is the epicenter of Minnesota’s population of 31,500 Somali Muslims. Perhaps nowhere else in the United States does a hockey rink sit so close to a halal meat market.”
While Augsburg has been a collaborative neighborhood partner for many years, President Paul Pribbenow has deepened that commitment in an effort to help the College fulfill its calling to foster conversations between the diverse residents of its vibrant community.
The story touches on interactions between Hassan and Augsburg College students whom Hassan has helped reflect on their spirituality to consider how it shapes their interpretations of the world. In this role, Hassan partners with College Pastor and Director of Ministries Sonja Hagander in individually supporting students as they navigate highs and lows, challenges and opportunities, faith and even their final exams.
Person-to-person efforts, according to Hassan, are at the heart of her work.