May 22, 2014

Georgetown Center Deepens Understanding between Muslims and Christians

Building upon its legacy of engaging in interfaith dialogue, Georgetown University hosted a briefing in March 2014 on the controversial and complex topic of sharia (Islamic law). This event was sponsored by the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, which was established in 1993 with the mission of building stronger bridges of cooperation between Muslims and Christians, and enhancing the West’s understanding of the Islamic world.

In December 2005, Georgetown received a $20 million dollar gift from His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia to support and expand the center. Now renamed the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (abbreviated as ACMCU), the center is recognized as an international leader in the field of interfaith dialogue. The geographic scope and coverage of the center includes a wide range of world regions, such as North Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America, among others.

Experts in their Field

ACMCU faculty are world-renowned experts in Islamic studies and Muslim-Christian relations. Scholars at the center have published more than 80 books and over 400 articles. Many of the center's faculty publications have been translated into over 18 foreign languages, including Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia, Japanese, Serbian, and Uighur. The center’s founding director, Georgetown professor John L. Esposito, is a consultant to the U.S. Department of State and other agencies, European and Asian governments and corporations, universities, and the media worldwide on Islamic affairs.

Engaging Students

In order to teach students interested in Muslim-Christian relations, the ACMCU offers several academic programs. The certificate in Muslim-Christian understanding, available to all Georgetown undergraduate students, consists of six courses that can be drawn from a variety of academic disciplines. At least one of these must be capstone course taught by ACMCU faculty that emphasizes independent research and advanced study in a particular area of Muslim-Christian relations. 

The ACMCU also offers a master's degree in liberal studies in Islam and Muslim-Christian relations for Georgetown students in the School of Continuing Studies. Candidates must complete a total of ten courses culminating in a thesis. Degree candidates are assigned ACMCU faculty mentors to assist in their course selection and research. 

Global Interfaith Dialogue

The ACMCU serves as the official North American representative of the Common Word Initiative, often considered the most successful Muslim-Christian interfaith effort in history. This initiative began in October 2007 when 138 Muslim scholars, imams, and heads of state from various countries signed the document “A Common Word Between Us and You,” reaching out to Christian leaders for increased inter-religious cooperation. 

“A Common Word” has since expanded to over 400 signatories, garnered immense international media coverage, sparked positive responses from leaders of other religions, and won numerous awards. In April 2013 ACMCU joined with the Georgetown University Office of the President to host a convention commemorating the Common Word Initiative’s fifth anniversary. 

The ACMCU also sponsors other conferences, briefings, and colloquia throughout the year. In the past year, topics have included Islamophobia in social media, the Ahmadiyya community, democracy in Pakistan, and the Egyptian Revolution, among others. The center has sponsored or participated in conferences or symposia in over 50 countries and 40 U.S. states. In addition, the center offers free professional development workshops for educators and institutions interested in teaching Islamic studies.