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Peace in the Middle East: Challenges and Signs of Hope

Join Interfaith at Augsburg for a Brown Bag Lunch discussion with visiting lecturer Munib Younan, retired bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and former president of the Lutheran World Federation.

Bishop Munib Younan
Bishop Munib Younan

Wednesday, October 2
12:00 P.M. – 1:00 P.m.

Oren Gateway Center, Room 100

Bishop Younan’s parents were Palestinian refugees. His entire life and leadership have been focused on finding a lasting, just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and building up the civic agency of Palestinian people.

Read Bishop Younan’s full bio online.

Bring your questions, and feel free to bring your own lunch!

2019-20 Augsburg Interfaith Fellows

We are pleased to announce Augsburg’s Interfaith Fellows for the 2019-20 academic year: Busshō Lahn, Chris Stedman ’08, and Ger Vang

The Augsburg Interfaith Fellows are charged with deepening and extending Augsburg’s calling to interreligious engagement, preparing students to live and serve in contexts of religious pluralism. Their work is coordinated by the newly created Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Interreligious Leadership and includes participating in classroom and campus discussions and events; working with students named as Interfaith, Christensen, and Sabo scholars; and engaging with Augsburg’s Interfaith Coordinating Committee and various religious groups on campus.

Bussho LahnBusshō Lahn is a Senior Priest at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center and is on the leadership team of Aslan Institute in Eagan, MN. Busshō came to Zen Buddhism in 1993, was ordained in 2009, and received dharma transmission in 2015. He is a certified spiritual director, connecting with and walking with those who wish to deepen an intentional and contemplative spiritual life. He sees the intimate connection between our deeply held spiritual beliefs and the workings of our day-to-day mind and heart. The connection between spirituality and psychology is the area Bussho loves to explore, as well as encouraging and supporting spiritual lives, regardless of faith tradition.

Bussho is grounded in contemplative spirituality, interfaith experience, addiction recovery, and shadow integration. He is experienced in overseas pilgrimage and retreat facilitation, classroom education, and public speaking on a variety of spiritual subjects. His special interests include Zen ritual and ceremony, poetry, interfaith dialogue, and the works of the great mystics. He lives in Eden Prairie with his wonderful wife Karen.

  • From Bussho –  I wish to keep offering myself as a resource on Zen, Buddhism, meditation, and mindfulness to classes & students in whatever capacity I can. I have a relatively flexible schedule, with normal class/working hours being especially available. I’d love to meet more Auggies!

Chris Stedman 2019Chris Stedman is a humanist community organizer, interfaith activist, and writer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, “an intimate and deeply affecting portrait… [that] proves [he is] an activist in the truest sense and one to watch” (Booklist, Starred Review). Chris is also the founding executive director of the Humanist Center of Minnesota, a project through which he and a group of researchers at the University of Minnesota are studying the beliefs, practices, and community involvement of the religiously unaffiliated. Formerly the founding executive director of the Yale Humanist Community and a fellow at Yale University, he also worked as a humanist chaplain at Harvard University and a content developer for the Interfaith Youth Core.

Chris has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and Fox News, has spoken at hundreds of conferences and universities, and has written for publications including The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pitchfork, BuzzFeed, VICE, The Los Angeles Review of Books, CNN, MSNBC, USA Today, Salon, The Washington Post, and others. Details magazine named him one of “five next-gen gurus who are disrupting religion’s status quo” and Mic called him “the millennial who’s busting every stereotype about atheists.” He is currently finishing work on his next book, IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives (forthcoming from Fortress Press), which examines what it means to be human in the age of social media, and he also writes THREAD, an occasional newsletter exploring the threads that connect online and offline life. Chris holds a summa cum laude B.A. in Religion from Augsburg (with minors in English and Social Welfare) and an M.A. in Religion from Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, for which he was awarded the Billings Prize for Most Outstanding Scholastic Achievement. In 2018 Augsburg selected him for their annual First Decade Award, which recognizes alumni “who have made significant progress in their professional achievements and contributions to the community” ten years after graduating. Learn more at chrisstedmanwriter.com.

  • From Chris – “I’m thrilled to start my third year as an interfaith fellow at Augsburg and can’t wait to continue learning from and with this wonderful community. I especially love visiting classes and engaging in conversation with students about humanism, secular worldviews, interfaith work, and my own undergraduate experience at Augsburg. Please reach out if you have any ideas or questions about ways we might work together.”

To invite Bussho or Chris to your speak with your class or connect with your group, please contact interfaith@augsburg.edu for their contact information.


Batalden interfaith Fellow


Ger Vang

Ger Vang is Hmong Shaman currently living in Saint Paul. He is from a family and culture with long history of shamanism and spiritual healers. His late father was a gifted healer; his grandfather was also a shaman. Ger began his own spiritual journey as a healer six years ago. The Power of Spiritual Healing chose him. The spiritual guides, the source of his healing gift, provide him with the necessary spiritual training in diagnosing illnesses and healing practices. Besides being a spiritual healer, he is a musician. He is also the Vice President of Training and Development for the Generational Financial Group, a local insurance firm. If you’re interested in having Ger visit your class, please contact him at gervang2222@gmail.com. If you have any questions, please feel free to email Bibiana Koh, Batalden Scholar in Applied Ethics, at koh@augsburg.edu.

Leadership for Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Interreligious Leadership

Rev. Mark S. Hanson headshot

We are pleased to announce Mark Hanson has transitioned from his role as executive director of the Christensen Center for Vocation (CCV) to help develop Augsburg’s new institute to promote interreligious leadership.

Bio for Mark S. Hanson

Serving as the Founding Director of Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Inter-Religious Leadership, Rev. Mark S. Hanson leads Augsburg University’s commitment to interfaith leadership being a core aspect of Augburg’s academic mission. Interfaith leadership presumes knowledge, skills and sensibilities and is embedded in both curricular and co-curricular dimensions of the Augsburg experience. It involves theological education, spiritual engagement, everyday experiences, global education and social action.

Prior to his current appointment, Hanson served as presiding bishop of the ELCA. He was elected to this position by the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA in August 2001 and was reelected in 2007. In 2003, he was elected to serve, concurrently, as president of the Lutheran World Federation, a position he held until 2010.

Before being elected as ELCA presiding bishop, he served as bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod (3H). He had been elected to serve a second term in Saint Paul earlier that same year. Prior to being elected synod bishop, he served as pastor of three Minnesota congregations: Prince of Glory Lutheran Church, Minneapolis; Edina (Minnesota) Community Lutheran Church; and University Lutheran Church of Hope in Minneapolis. 

Born in Minneapolis on December 2, 1946, he graduated from Augsburg College with a B.A. in sociology. He was a Rockefeller Fellow at Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and received a Master of Divinity degree there in 1972. He also attended Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, and was a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School in 1979. 

In his work as president of the Lutheran World Federation and as presiding bishop of the ELCA, Hanson has traveled widely throughout the world, sharing a confident hope in God’s promises and a vision of the joyful freedom in Christian community and mission. 

Hanson is widely known as a leader with an evangelical passion and imagination who embraces the Christian tradition, the Christian community, and the world with both generous goodwill and thoughtful insight. He has been an articulate advocate for the renewal of the church’s preaching and public voice, for the strengthening of ecumenical and inter-religious relationships, and for reconciliation and justice in society, with attention especially to those who live with poverty and discrimination. 

Hanson has received several honorary degrees, including Doctor of Humane Letters from Augsburg College, Wittenberg University, and Grand View University, Doctor of Humanities from Capital University, Doctor of Divinity from Lenoir-Rhyne College, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Susquehanna University, Wartburg College, and The Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration.

He is the author of Faithful Yet Changing, the Church in Challenging Times and Faithful and Courageous, Christians in Unsettling Times both from Augsburg Fortress, Publishers. 

Married to Ione (Agrimson), they are the parents of Aaron, Alyssa, Rachel, Ezra, Isaac and Elizabeth, and grandparents to Naomi, Kingston, Sam, Danielle and Sophia. Before moving to Chicago, Ione was the director of social work at Minneapolis and St. Paul Children’s Hospitals.

2018-19 Christensen Interfaith Fellows

We are pleased to announce the Christensen and Batalden Interfaith Fellows for the 2018-19 academic year:

Christensen Interfaith Fellows – Wendy Goldberg, Busshō Lahn and Chris Stedman ’08

Batalden Interfaith Fellow – Ger Vang

The Christensen and Batalden Interfaith Fellows are charged with deepening and extending Augsburg’s calling to inter-religious engagement, preparing students to live and serve in contexts of religious pluralism. Their work will be coordinated by the Christensen Center for Vocation and Batalden Professor in Applied Ethics. It includes participating in classroom and campus discussions and events; working with students named as Interfaith, Christensen, and Sabo scholars; and engaging with Augsburg’s Interfaith Coordinating Committee and various religious groups on campus.
Continue reading “2018-19 Christensen Interfaith Fellows”

Christensen Interfaith Fellows, 2017-18

The following three individuals have been appointed as Augsburg’s inaugural Christensen Interfaith Fellows for the 2017-18 academic year: Abdisalam Adam, Wendy Goldberg, and Chris Stedman ’08.

The Interfaith Fellows are charged with deepening and extending Augsburg’s calling to inter-religious engagement, preparing students to live and serve in contexts of religious pluralism. Their work will be coordinated by the Christensen Center for Vocation and includes participating in classroom and campus discussions and events; working with students named as Interfaith, Christensen, and Sabo scholars; and engaging with Augsburg’s Interfaith Coordinating Committee and various religious groups on campus. Continue reading “Christensen Interfaith Fellows, 2017-18”

Muslim Identities in Minnesota

PMuslim Voices MNresentations by Cawo Abdi and Nahid Khan (University of Minnesota)

Moderated by Fardosa Hassan (Augsburg College)

Date & Time: Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 7:00 PM

Admission: free and open to the public

Location: Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center, Augsburg College

In the 21st century there is a plethora of clichés, stereotypes, and over-generalizations about Muslims in Minnesota, where there are also a variety of different ways of being Muslim. In this panel, Professor Abdi and Ph.D. candidate Khan will explore the diversity of Muslims in Minnesota today and the many contexts shaping their lives and identities. Professor Abdi will draw on her recently published book on the Somali diaspora, Elusive Jannah, and Khan will present data from her research on the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in Twin Cities media over the last several decades.  This is the second in a series on Muslim Identities co-sponsored with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas.  The first, “Muslim Identities in North America,” features Professors Meena Sharify-Funk (Wilfred Laurier University) and Nahid Khan, speaking at 7pm, Monday, September 26, in Woulfe Alumni Hall, University of St. Thomas.

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Cawo Abdi

Cawo Abdi is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota and a Research Associate at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Professor Abdi’s research areas are migration, family and gender relations, development, Africa and the Middle East. She has published on these topics in various journals and is the author of a book, “Elusive Jannah: The Somali Diaspora and a Borderless Muslim Identity,” University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

nahid
Nahid Khan

Nahid Khan is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a religious studies graduate minor at the University of Minnesota. Khan also serves as special consultant to the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas. Active in community interfaith dialogue since the 1980s, with a particular focus on Muslim-Jewish dialogue, she was a Muslim delegate at the North American Interfaith Colloquium held at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in 1999 and 2000 and she served for eight years on the board of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, an interfaith advocacy group addressing social justice issues in Minnesota.  She is also a trained guide for the Collection in Focus program at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and a board member of Mizna, an Arab-American cultural and arts organization based in the Twin Cities.

Sponsored by the Bernhard Christensen Center for Vocation at Augsburg College in collaboration with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas, as well as the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center and the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of St. Thomas.

 

Interfaith Student Reflection by Joseph Kempf

Joseph Kempf, Class of 2016

joe-kempf

“(And Jesus Said) You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” Matthew 5:13

You are…a people of faith. You are…a city on a hill. You are…the Salt of the Earth. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his followers salt, of all things! Don’t get me wrong, salt is delicious and needed. But we could be something great! We could be legends, we could be a mountain, instead Jesus charges us with salt. While there are numerous interpretations of what exactly is meant by being the Salt of the Earth, I personally hold this verse in the Gospel of Matthew to indicate how followers of Jesus should engage in the world. I am going to do this with a little bit of Chemistry.

I wanted to be scholarly and a little rebellious so I researched what Salt of the Earth even means. According to the Wikipedia page devoted to Matthew 5:13, it reads “Salt itself, Sodium Chloride, is extremely stable and cannot lose its flavor…(then some author notes) Jesus is ‘not giving a chemistry lesson’” I’m almost a little offended. Who are they to decide when chemistry stops. If there is one thing I learned at Augsburg…chemistry never stops. Since Jesus clearly was not teaching chemistry, I think I will step up to the plate so to speak.

I’m sure all of you are familiar enough with cooking. You know with all of your might that oil and water will never mix, no matter how much you stir. Oil is simply too big for water to take on. Long chains of carbons and hydrogens are not attractive to water’s oxygen and hydrogen combo. Maybe for too long, Christians have become oily in practice and deed. We have become too engrossed with our beliefs, what road to heaven or what does this passage actually mean. If water represents the world, sometimes we just sit on top, looking at the world below us but never submerges ourselves. We see our neighbors of various religions, but we may seldom act. What we need is a radical shift in ideas and our approach to other religions. But Jesus doesn’t call us the ‘oil of the earth’ we are the ‘salt of the earth’! You know perfectly well what salt does in water- it breaks apart and fully involves itself in waters affairs. An important thing to note is that the salt is never destroyed in this transaction. Often what holds us back from working or engaging in interfaith dialogue and service is the simple fact that we are afraid of losing our faith. Of changing for the worse or even where to begin. But of course these actions can be learned. WE are called to engage the world and serve our neighbor. How much longer are we going to separate ourselves from this sacred service?

Continue reading “Interfaith Student Reflection by Joseph Kempf”

Interfaith Student Reflection by Jasmine Eltawely

Jasmine Eltawely ’16jasmin-etlawely

Growing up as a Muslim in the US has never been an easy thing for me. I have constantly had to deal with people forming misconceptions about me due to what they’ve heard about Muslims, before they have even gotten the chance to get to know one. This led me to always feel a bit ashamed of my religious identity and I would constantly feel the need to hide it from people. Though I have always been devoted to my faith, I just felt it would be easier for people to not know I was Muslim, due to fear that I would be deemed an outcast. This caused me to never discuss religion with anyone outside of my family, and to not wear the hijab or pray in public places, up until I started attending Anoka Ramsey Community College.

There, I became involved in student organizations that dealt with interfaith engagement and dialogue. Through my experiences I was able to find that it was okay for me to be who I am and not feel like I would be judged or mistreated due to my identity as a Muslim. I was able to interact with people that didn’t have the same beliefs as me, but I could talk with them about religion in welcoming conversations to explore our ideologies. It was an amazing experience that I hoped to continue, and I was able to do just that when I transferred to Augsburg College. I was able to continue to be involved in such organizations on campus, and continue to reach out to the Muslim community and work to bridge the gaps of misunderstanding that currently exist.

Islam has always been such a key part of my life, and much of who I am is shaped by it, but it has taken me a long time to be comfortable enough to say that to others. Through interfaith engagement I have been given the opportunity to truly find who I am and not be ashamed of it. Working with students on campus to create an inclusive environment for people of all faiths has been an amazing service that I have been blessed to be a part of. Not only have I been able to give back to my community, but I was also able to learn about myself through the process. Not only is interfaith engagement very important to me, it has become a big part of my life and who I am.

I believe that God has blessed us all with many great things, things that we should never take for granted. And if we are fortunate enough to be given an opportunity that others don’t have access to, then it is our responsibility to reach out. I feel that through Interfaith engagement, I am able to do just that. I’m able to be involved in creating community amongst people in a time where conflict seems to always block understanding and hate is so easily spread. My faith has inspired me that one of the beauties of life is the diversity that we are surrounded with, and it is important that we embrace these differences rather than shame and criticize. There is an ayah in the Quran in which Allah tells the people of the Earth that He created us different so that we would get to know one another. And I feel that only with interfaith engagement can we truly strive for this universal understanding. Continue reading “Interfaith Student Reflection by Jasmine Eltawely”

Opportunity to be an Interfaith Scholar for 2015-16

Masha, class of 2013: "I serve my community because I am a Buddhist".The Augsburg College Interfaith Scholars explore religious diversity, engage in meaningful dialogue, and make an impact at Augsburg and the wider community!

Led by Professor Matt Maruggi and Pastor Sonja Hagander, Interfaith Scholars meet on Thursday nights throughout the year, earn upper level religion credit, and receive a $2000 tuition scholarship.

Students from a variety of traditions as well as the non-religious are invited to apply in order to converse respectfully with others about what they believe, why it matters, and how it propels us to service in the world. See an overview with further details about the program. Please take a look and consider applying by February 5.

 

Augsburg Interfaith Scholars Summary

Yearlong student cohort engaging in dialogue and service

The Interfaith Scholars are a group of students who are interested in exploring the religious diversity of the Augsburg student body, the wider Twin Cities community, and the United States through inter-religious dialogue and action. Students from a variety of traditions as well as the non-religious are invited to apply in order to converse respectfully with others about what they believe, why it matters, and how it propels us to service in the world. Once selected, the cohort has both academic and service requirements for an entire academic year.

Interested in learning more? See below.

Some examples of past Interfaith projects

2012-2013 Interfaith Scholars Facebook photo book

2010-2011 Interfaith Scholar Cohort Video

The Interfaith Scholars Program is a collaboration between the Christensen Center for Vocation (CCV), Campus Ministry and the Religion Department.