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Hickey Center Executive Director Muhammad Shafiq honored for his interfaith work

Published January 06, 2022

Nazareth College is believed to be the first in the country to establish a center for interfaith studies and dialogue, around the time of the 9/11/01 tragedy, and its leader, Muhammad Shafiq, Ph.D. has been recognized for his ongoing work. The New York State Council of Churches (NYSCOC) honored him with the Excellence in Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Award during the NYSCOC Virtual Awards Gala in early December.

Shafiq is the executive director of the Brian and Jean Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue (CISD) and professor of Islamic and religious studies at Nazareth College. He is chair of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).

“Interfaith is my passion, my life, and my commitment to a peaceful coexistence.” Shafiq says the public must unite to support interfaith relations. “Our country is both politically and religiously polarized, even American pluralism is in danger. We need to stand together promoting interfaith relationships to help bridge the gap.”

Shafiq says the award encourages him to keep doing the good work together as one community. He is especially proud of the interfaith work being done to prepare the next generation. The Hickey Center holds Global Citizenship conferences for high school students to learn the importance of how to respond to intolerance, improve religious literacy, and show the etiquette required to work in a pluralistic world. The next Global Citizenship conference is set for March 16, 2022.

Originally from Pakistan, Shafiq emigrated to America in 1976. While studying at Temple University, Shafiq became fascinated by religious dialogue. "In those days, there was ecumenical dialogue not interfaith dialogue. Those who were Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. were not part of the conversation. The term ‘interfaith dialogue’ wasn’t even coined until 1988, so the practice is still very much in its developmental stages." Realizing he could change this, Shafiq has written a variety of books,  organized scholarly conferences, and offered workshops and training for teens, teachers, and trainers through Nazareth College’s Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue.

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Nazareth College’s academic strengths cross an unusually broad spectrum of 60 majors, including education, health and human services, management, the fine arts, music, theater, math and science, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. The coeducational, religiously independent, classic campus in a charming suburb of Rochester, N.Y., challenges and supports 2,300 undergrads and 700 graduate students. Nazareth is recognized nationally for its Fulbright global student scholars and commitment to civic engagement. Rigorous programs, an uncommon arts and sciences core, experiential learning, career skills, and a global focus prepare graduates for not just one job, but for their life’s work.