16 Aug 2010
In a landmark and multi-year project, Meedan is working with the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme (CIP) at the University of Cambridge to engage cross-language inter-faith dialogue and scholarship on the web. With support from the Coexist Foundation, we aim to bring Muslim and Christian leaders into respectful discussions around scripture that will be durable for the long term and accessible to a wide public.
The project aims to bridge an existing language divide between scholars and faith leaders in the Middle East and the West, by providing high quality human translation between Arabic and English. An international network of senior Clerics, Imams and scholars will have access to a custom-designed platform on which they will be able to post articles, take part in conversations and reference holy scripture, supported by a dedicated team of translators in different locations around the world. The Grand Mufti of Egypt, HE Sheikh Ali Gomaa is among those who have already agreed to take part.
Participation will be by invitation only, but the details of selected discussions will be made public, giving millions of internet users access to authoritative interpretations of holy scripture at moments of crisis. For the first time, they will be able to find out from a single source how leading thinkers are assessing major faith issues, even if they do not speak their language. Dr. Mike Higton, Academic Director of CIP, said: "The practice of inter-faith study deepens understanding both within and between traditions, and opens the possibility for new models of public discourse appropriate for religiously plural societies in the 21st Century."
In future iterations, we plan to broaden the dialogues for wider public use. We aim to do this by developing a compendium of curricula on the set themes, including pairings of Biblical and Qur’anic scriptural passages in two languages, related commentary extracts from the two traditions, and discussion guides suggesting ways of addressing the contemporary topics with reference to the scripture. Ideally, we will make these resources and tools available to external websites and for download.
Our route to impact is to bridge the public discussions through religious leaders and scholars. For that reason we have built a network of academic institutions supportive of the project, with the Dubai-based think tank Kalam Research and Media playing a leading role.
Our goals have both scholarly and public impact dimensions. We seek to create the conditions for new forms of inter-religious scholarship to take place and for knowledge to be more easily shared across language communities. We also seek to forge active and sustainable bonds of engagement between faith leaders that can inspire communities. By bringing arguably the world’s most significant conversation into a digital age, this project offers the potential for shared words, reflections, and insights to be accessible across languages and available to a global public that so critically needs hopeful examples of inter-faith civility and engagement.