Muslim & Jewish College Presidents Join With Christian Educators to Focus on Common Goals

Brigham Young University President Kevin J. Worthen, from left, Yeshiva University President Ari Berman, Regis College President John Fitzgibbons, Zaytuna College President Hamza Yusuf, and Houghton College President Shirley Mullen participate in an interfaith panel on Feb. 1, 2019, during a conference of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Like most college presidents, Ari Berman and Hamza Yusuf care about giving their students the best education possible in the classroom.

They also want to support their students’ rights as people of faith.

Faith-based schools help students “to contextualize our lives in a greater mission, to have a sense of holiness about everything that we do,” Berman, president of Yeshiva University in New York, told a gathering of Christian college presidents in the nation’s capital last week (Feb. 1).

The Yeshiva University president’s comments prompted an “Amen” from an audience member.

Berman and Yusuf, president of Zaytuna College in California, took part in an interfaith panel focused on what faith-based schools from diverse backgrounds have in common. The panel, which also included presidents of Mormon, Catholic and Protestant schools, took place at the end of the Presidents Conference of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, an evangelical consortium of more than 180 schools.

Like their counterparts, both Zaytuna College and Yeshiva University aim to reinforce their religious traditions to a younger generation as they educate them in fields of study ranging from liberal arts to law, their presidents said.

They defended their institutions as alternatives for students of faith who may be met with hostility from college professors at secular schools who consider their religion to be superstition or fellow students who don’t understand their beliefs.

“For me, just having safe places where people that actually are devotional can come to and not be offended,” said Yusuf, “I think that’s extremely important.”

Brigham Young University President Kevin J. Worthen also spoke of the connection between faith and learning.

“Our goal at Brigham Young University is not simply to prepare students for their first job — though that is not unimportant to them or us,” he said. “And it’s not even to prepare them for their last job. It’s to prepare them for their eternal destiny.”

Although attendees hailed the unusual gathering as historic, more than one panelist noted that connections between great thinkers across faiths dates to medieval times.

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Source: Religion News Service