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Interfaith institute receives nearly $1 million to bridge gap between science, religion

Posted on October 06, 2016

There is an ongoing debate between moderate and fundamentalist approaches to religion in Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities. This debate commonly pits science against religion.

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley recently received a $938,975 grant from the John Templeton Foundation to explore this debate in order to create a common global understanding among two different trains of thought and belief.

“While the Kaufman Interfaith Institute began as a West Michigan project, it has received national attention for the work we do in interfaith understanding, and for our science and religion program,” said Douglas Kindschi, Kaufman Interfaith Institute director. “This grant takes both of these missions and puts them on the international stage.”

The co-directors of the project are Kelly Clark, senior research fellow at the institute, and Kindschi. The project will bring together 36 prominent philosophers, physicist and biologists from around the world for annual workshops and conferences in West Michigan and the Middle East.

Throughout the course of the three-year project, all of the scholars will attend three annual workshops to collectively brainstorm, learn about one another's traditions, develop a diverse community, and build bridges among themselves and their own faith traditions.

"I think the most problematic issue in science and religion is the reconciliation of the religious belief in a God who is in control with the scientific belief that reality is chancy and unpredictable," said Clark. "Academic discussions of these topics have been dominated by Christians and, since we value diversity, we are broadening our conversation partners to include Muslims and Jews."

Clark added that the collective will strive to educate and train the next generation of interfaith leaders.

"We need to get religious understanding and cooperation on the agenda at the entry level, so this project involves 24 young professors from around the world," Clark explained. "We have high hopes that these thought leaders will start teaching young people and work with their communities on these very important issues."

Each annual workshop will include an introduction to one of the three Abrahamic religions (Muslim, Christian, Jewish). The concluding workshop in 2019 in Istanbul will be followed by an international Abrahamic science and religion conference.

For more information about the project, contact Kelly Clark at clarkell@gvsu.edu. For more information about the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, visit www.gvsu.edu/interfaith.