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Course Explores Intersections of Three Major Faiths

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October 29, 2010 – What happens when a priest, an imam and a rabbi walk into a classroom?

Georgetown students learn a great deal about the intersection and contrast of three major faiths.

The course, Interreligious Encounter and Dialogue I, is taught by Rev. Dennis McManus, Imam Yahya Hendi and Rabbi Harold White as an introduction to the three Abrahamic traditions.

The learning experience exposes students to the general history and primary teachings of each religion while relating the teachings to current issues.

Modern Life, Ancient Faiths

“Students come into the class wanting to know how the religions impact modern-day life,” says McManus, visiting assistant professor of theology and a chaplain-in-residence at Darnall Hall. “They want to know what things mean and where they fit into it all.”

McManus says course topics run the gamut – everything from interfaith marriages to ghosts, demons, possession and exorcism to views on salvation and redemption.

In a recent class covering Israeli-Palestinian relations, the class explored the conflict between the two groups and how it has deepened rifts between Muslims and Jews in the region.

“You talk, listen and discuss,” says Hendi, who has been Georgetown’s Muslim chaplain for the past 10 years.

Hard Questions

Hendi, along with two other instructors began teaching the course in 2000 before White joined the course in 2003 and McManus in 2004.

“We challenge one another,” says White, the university’s Jewish chaplain for more than 40 years.

“But we do it with dignity and civility,” Hendi adds.

Erin Kilbride (C’12) and Jessica Kuntz (SFS’10), say taking a course taught by a priest, rabbi and imam makes the class a comfortable setting to ask the “hard questions” about faith, culture, justice and peace.

“Sometimes I think the professors ask questions of one another for our benefit,” says Kuntz. “Other times, they seem to do so out of genuine personal interest. In both cases, it helps the class go deeper than it would with student questions alone.”

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