November 25, 2019

GU-Q Professor Reflects on Teaching Theology at a Jesuit University in Doha

In honor of Jesuit Heritage Month, the Office of the Vice President for Global Engagement spoke with Akintunde E. Akinade, a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), about teaching religion at a Jesuit institution in a predominantly Muslim country.

Akintunde E. Akinade is a professor of theology at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q)
Akintunde E. Akinade is a professor of theology at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q)

Each November, Georgetown celebrates Jesuit history and traditions. At Georgetown sites around the world, Jesuit Heritage Month brings together distinguished faculty and special guests in events and activities focused on the work of the Jesuits.

Akintunde E. Akinade has been teaching theology at GU-Q for 11 years. An ordained minister in the Anglican Communion and an African theologian, Akinade has taught several courses, including “The Problem of God,” a first-year “proseminar” on interreligious engagement, “Human Images in World Religions,” “Liberation Theologies in the U.S.,” “Religion and Violence,” “World Religions Today,” and “Christian Responses to Islam.”

From your perspective, how is Georgetown's identity as a Jesuit institution perceived by the community in Doha? How does that shape interactions, for students and faculty, with local partners and organizations?

The stakeholders within Qatar Foundation and the larger Qatari society support and cherish some of the values that are ingrained in the Jesuit tradition. By and large, these are the values that should be celebrated by any institution or society that is progressive, tolerant, and forward-looking. It is wonderful to partner with Qatar Foundation in creating an enabling environment that promotes Ignatian heritage and values.

How are Jesuit values integrated into the classroom experience at GU-Q?

The classroom, consisting of students from different religious traditions and countries, is a living laboratory for critically exploring some of the key issues in “the spirit of Georgetown.” This semester, my proseminar class grapples with themes that are integral to interreligious engagement, understanding, and dialogue. Students understand that one of the pressing issues facing theologians, philosophers, and policymakers today is how they can meet the various challenges posed by diverse religious traditions and worldviews around the world.

It is a great opportunity to teach in a context that is peaceful, tolerant, and deeply concerned about creating a future that is replete with new possibilities and positive innovations. 

What is the most interesting part about teaching at a Jesuit institution in a country where Islam is the official religion?

GU-Q is very conscious of its Jesuit heritage and tradition. Students, faculty, and staff are intentional about creating a context that not only understands the non-negotiable values of a Jesuit institution, but is actually committed to putting them into practice. At GU-Q, a gap between theory and practice is frowned upon. The small size of the campus in Doha makes this vision possible. The community assiduously works to create an environment that promotes and engenders Ignatian values.

Do you have anything else to add?

As an ordained minister in the Anglican Communion and an African theologian, teaching in a predominantly Muslim context has enabled me to critically rethink and reexamine some theological concepts such as the Incarnation, Ecclesiology, and the Holy Trinity. Students ask deep and logical questions that underscore that theology is “faith seeking understanding” to borrow a phrase by Saint Anselm.

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