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Nurani: How Meedan aims to promote deeper understanding between faiths

Nurani.org is a platform for dialogue between religious scholars, leaders and civic groups in two languages - Arabic and English.

The product of a collaboration between Meedan, the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme at the University of Cambridge,  the Coexist Foundation, and a consortium of universities and research centres, it allows members of the Abrahamic faith traditions to share and study their scriptures together.

Nurani itself is designed for bi-lateral discussions between Muslims and Christians, though the underlying platform is being customized for three-faith dialogue involving Jewish participants.

Nurani.org specifically aims to:

Participating in Nurani.org is initially by invitation only, as we are seeking to create a context in which high-quality, well moderated and safe inter-faith discussion can take place between scholars and civic groups. In the longer term we envisage creating opportunities for dialogues involving the wider public. To request further information or an invitation to the platform, email info[at]meedan.net or tweet to @Meedan on Twitter.

Seeking deeper understanding - Scriptural Reasoning as a model for dialogue

The aim of discussion on Nurani.org is not to secure agreement, but to secure deeper understanding.

Participants from two faiths, Christianity and Islam, meet to discuss short texts from their respective scriptures – the Bible and the Qur’an building on an established form of inter-faith dialogue called Scriptural Reasoning.  This approach has been developed by the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme in a range of contexts and seeks to improve understanding in three key ways:

  1. Discussants seek a deeper understanding of the ‘plain sense’ of the texts in front of them.  They ask questions like: Do these texts appear to make sense on an initial reading, to a group of readers some of whom are unfamiliar with them?  Do any of us find anything surprising, confusing, intriguing, difficult or upsetting about them? 
    
  2. Discussants seek a deeper understanding of each other’s traditions.  So a Christian seeks to understand how the Muslims in the group read this Qur’anic text, and a Muslim participant seeks to understand how the Christians read the Biblical text.  They don’t try to speak authoritatively for the whole religious or scholarly tradition of their faith, but simply for themselves as participants in one of the traditions.  They ask the question: How does each of us, with the formation in our faith that we have had, read this text?  Do the others in the group find anything surprising, confusing, intriguing, difficult or upsetting about our ways of reading it? 
    
  3. Discussants seek a deeper understanding of their own traditions.  When, for instance, a Christian reads a Biblical text in the company of Muslims who ask questions about the text and his or her reading of it, and who suggest other ways in which it seems to them that the text could be read, he or she is driven to look at the text and her reading of it again, with fresh eyes.  And when a Muslim reads a Qur’anic text in the company of Christians who ask questions and suggest other ways of reading, he or she too is driven to look at that text with fresh eyes.  Reading in such diverse company drives understanding deeper. 
    

Translation

Nurani.org is designed to be entirely bi-lingual. Every piece of text will be translated between two languages - Arabic and English - as it is published. This is made possible by a team of professional translators with religious knowledge working with the translation tools built into the platform. Currently though we are testing monolingual discussions.

Discussions

On Nurani.org, we bring Christian and Muslim scholars together in small groups to discuss extracts from their sacred or authoritative texts together. A moderator will begin the discussion by inviting discussants to read selected scriptural extracts and an initial comment that he or she has written.

Texts

Nurani.org is a place for dialogue about the scriptures that lie at the heart of the religious traditions. In most cases, for the Biblical passages we will use the New Revised Standard Version in English at http://bible.oremus.org/ and Biblica http://www.biblica.com/bibles/arabic/ in Arabic. For the Qur’anic passages we will use http://tanzil.net/ in Arabic and the Arthur J. Arberry translation in English.

Glossary

The Nurani.org Glossary allows you to log important words and phrases that appear in scriptures so that discussants from other faiths can better understand the important concepts in each tradition. Each entry in the glossary is called a Term and allows a user to add one or multiple translations (English or Arabic), contextual tags, and explanatory annotations. Each term will also show you where it has appeared on Nurani.org, providing a dynamic concordance of references and linkages between the textual traditions of the two faiths.

Licenses

The entire set of resources and tools developed in this project, including the published discussions, the translations, the glossary and the platform itself, is available for re-use under open source license. The published discussion and glossary content is available for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License. The platform is available for re-use under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2).

Partners

Nurani is a collaboration between a number of the world’s leading institutions for faith research, led by the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme (CIP), a program of the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, UK, and Meedan, a social technology nonprofit based in San Francisco.

CIP is a flagship project of the University of Cambridge 800th Anniversary Campaign, offering a distinctive scholarly approach to furthering understanding across the Abrahamic traditions with a strong emphasis on collaboration and translation. It is taking the lead in building the network of partner institutions using this platform, initiating and moderating dialogues, and creating scholarly resources. Learn more here.

This platform was built by Meedan, a leading charitable provider of advanced technologies for dialogue and cross-language encounter, with expertise in cross-language interaction design and system design for Arabic-English translation on the web.