Dr. Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, Director of the Interreligious Chaplaincy Program, Joins Muslim-Jewish Chaplain’s Panel Discussion
HARTFORD, CT – April 6, 2023 – Dr. Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, Director of the Interreligious Chaplaincy Program and Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at the Graduate Theological Union, was instrumental in organizing a highly successful Chaplains of the Book event. Hosted by Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, the full day program is designed to bring together Jewish and Muslim chaplains in building understanding and a more inclusive community of spiritual caregivers.
The program attracted Jewish and Muslim participants from around the country, who engaged in learning and dialogue while cultivating collaborative, collegial connections between members of two religious minority communities.
Chaplains from diverse settings, including health care, higher education, corrections facilities, and more, had the opportunity to, in the words of the organizers, “share the challenges, joys, spirituality, and religious fulfillment of offering spiritual care through the prism of their respective faith traditions.”
The day began with a morning welcome from representatives of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC), the Association of Muslim Chaplains (AMC), and the hosts at Hartford International University. Following that, participants were invited to a discussion titled “Chaplains of the Book: Starting Courageous Conversations,” which included Dr. Abu-Shamsieh as a panelist.
“The demand for spiritual caregivers—as we call them, chaplains—has never been greater,” said Dr. Abu-Shamsieh, reflecting on the event. “In hospitals, prisons, the military, universities, and other settings, spiritual caregivers are on the front lines of human experience, helping people navigate issues of life and death. One thing we learned in the pandemic, and which continues to challenge chaplains, is the critical need for better care for culturally and religiously diverse communities, especially immigrant communities and communities of color—moving past the model in which the majority of practicing chaplains identify as Caucasian and Christian. It is for these reasons that we need to continue to have challenging conversations about how we give hope and consolation to a religiously and culturally diverse audience, and events such as this, with Jewish and Muslim chaplains dialoging together, are essential to reaching that goal.”
After the panel discussion, the day continued with interfaith prayer, a lunch that included both halal and kosher meals, studies of Jewish and Muslim texts, and breakout sessions wrestling with important questions for chaplains in a variety of settings. The session concluded with a structured discussion/reflection, led by leaders of the AMC and NAJC, on how the organizations can learn from and support each other going forward, including opportunities to collaborate on diversity advocacy and the ongoing fight against antisemitism and Islamophobia.
This groundbreaking event was sponsored by Neshama: The Association of Jewish Chaplains, The Association of Muslim Chaplains, Ziyara Muslim Spiritual Care Services, and Hartford International University for Religion and Peace.
The Graduate Theological Union’s innovative Interreligious Chaplaincy Program (ICP) is designed to equip leaders with the skills and interreligious understanding necessary to offer spiritual care among increasingly diverse populations in a wide variety of contexts and life stages. The one-year program offers those who have previously earned a bachelor’s degree the opportunity to earn a Certificate in Interreligious Chaplaincy. For more information, visit https://www.gtu.edu/icp.