Kaufman Interfaith Institute hopes to expand work from $1 million grant

Thirty-six people representing 15 countries and three religious faiths participated in a three-year grant study on interfaith understanding.  
Thirty-six people representing 15 countries and three religious faiths participated in a three-year grant study on interfaith understanding.  
Image Credit: Phil Oosterhouse
Kelly James Clark, senior researcher at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, speaks with participants. 
Kelly James Clark, senior researcher at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, speaks with participants. 
Image Credit: Phil Oosterhouse
Jesse Bernal, vice president of Inclusion and Equity, back row second from left, and Douglas Kindschi, director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, back row fourth from left, join discussion with study participants.
Jesse Bernal, vice president of Inclusion and Equity, back row second from left, and Douglas Kindschi, director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, back row fourth from left, join discussion with study participants.
Image Credit: Phil Oosterhouse

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley recently concluded a three-year grant study on interfaith understanding with meetings in Morocco and Jordan June 16-22, 2019.

The study was funded by a $938,975 grant from the John Templeton Foundation in October 2016 to provide the opportunity to align a global understanding of similarity between science and religion. 

Kelly James Clark, senior research fellow at Kaufman Interfaith Institute, led the project, which included 36 participants representing 15 countries and three religions (Christian, Jewish and Muslim). The group participated in three workshops over the past three years to debate and discuss how science and religion may overlap from a variety of religious and scientific backgrounds.

The group met in Macedonia in 2018 and Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2017. 

Clark said one of the main goals was to publish their findings; at least two publications are expected to be released within the next year.

"By encouraging participants into interfaith groups on projects, they had to set aside their own beliefs to make others be the best philosopher they could be," said Clark. "It was difficult to set aside differences to work and collaborate together on the first day. There were strong differences in religious and cultural beliefs that we had to address." 

Eventually, Clark said, the group was able to break down many barriers and begin to build a foundation of respect and comfort that allowed the team to move forward. 

"By the end of that first week, people who initially refused to sit near or talk with some others were hugging," Clark said. "Seeing bridges being built among people who have become lifelong friends may be one of the single most delightful moments from this experience.”

Clark is currently working to secure additional funding for this same group to continue its discussion and work. "Participants didn’t always stick to the topics of science and religion, but everyone produced really good content. There’s much more to be done working together."

To learn more about the project and its participants, visit https://www.gvsu.edu/interfaith/abrahamic-reflections-on-science-and-religion-37.htm