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Jesuit: Multiple Views Crucial to Interreligious Awareness

Rev. Daniel Madigan, S.J.

Associate professor of theology Rev. Daniel Madigan, S.J., says studying Islam is an essential step in better understanding Christianity and all world religions.

August 11, 2011 – It is more important than ever for students exploring a religion, especially Islam, to examine its sociopolitical, historical and theological roots, according to Rev. Daniel Madigan, S.J., a Georgetown associate professor of theology.

In public discourse these days people increasingly associate Muslims with polemics, with violence and terrorism. Some even proclaim that Islam is not a religion at all.

Dig deeper, the professor advises students in his Islamic Religious Thought and Practice course.

“One thing about Georgetown is that we are well known for our politics and international affairs,” says Madigan, who holds a professorship funded by the Jeanette W. and Otto J. Ruesch family. “In the Theology Department, we have tried to balance that out a bit in dealing with Islam as a faith and as a religion and not simply as a security issue and an international political phenomenon.”

More Similar Than Different

Luke Schoenfelder (C’12), a government major who took Madigan’s course last fall, grew up in a conservative Mennonite community in Pennsylvania and was somewhat unfamiliar with Islam.

He says Madigan’s course helped him see Muslims as a people, as a culture.

“I realized that most people are people like us – there are more things that bind us together than tear us apart,” Schoenfelder says.

Walking Example

Madigan, a native of Australia with a doctorate in Islamic religion from Columbia University, says theological study of Islam is also important in helping Christians and non-Christians better understand their own faith.

“When we talk about theology among ourselves we adopt a kind of a language and we’re so used to doing it, we don’t challenge each other on it,” Madigan says. “We don’t realize how weird it sounds to people who grew up in a different faith.”

Establishing an interreligious dialogue between Christianity and Islam, and among all world religions, is an important step towards greater accountability and acceptance, the professor explains.

“Fr. Madigan is the best walking example of interreligious dialogue,” says Maria Hayden (SFS’11). “His breadth of knowledge of Islam paired with his life devoted to Christianity is a rare example of tolerance, and it inspired me to broaden my religious knowledge beyond my personal faith.”

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