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Learner Gains Understanding of the World-wide Impulse Toward Unity

Mar 31, 2021
UNITY illustration

Course: Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration (2021)
Lead Faculty/Mentor: Anne Pearson

Editor’s Note: Neil McHugh provided his mentor with this summary of learning from his recent course. The Wilmette Institute wishes him the very best as he continues to study and learn, and looks forward to receiving a copy of his research paper.

By completing the course assignments  (readings and postings), I gained knowledge about different aspects of interfaith work and some of the challenges inherent in carrying it out. I expect to revisit some of the course readings and videos in the weeks ahead. As for the final goal (a research-based essay), I expect to complete it in the next week.

The course gave me a deeper understanding of the world-wide impulse toward unity, the yearning of people everywhere to connect with others and work together to overcome divisions and solve problems. Moreover, the recognition that differences enhance the power of unity (unless manipulated for destructive ends) grows every day. I was also able to reflect on the sources of discomfort or anxiety in interfaith work (which I have personally experienced).

I have come to more fully admire the wide range of ways that people have responded to the needs of society — spontaneous but also disciplined outpourings of generosity, empathy, mutual respect, unconditional love, hard work, and innovative ideas. Barriers come down in the act of striving for the common good.

The course further reinforced and clarified the recognition that building a new civilization is a process in which all people participate. The unifying forces of life are all-encompassing.

I have been fully involved in one interfaith organization and occasionally in several others. My participation in this course has illuminated the trajectory followed by these organizations in recent years and set it in context for me. By gaining an awareness of how interfaith work grows and manifests itself in discourse and service, I am coming to recognize a variety of paths and ideas that I might propose to participate in as circumstances develop.



Neil McHugh

I am a retired professor of African and Islamic history, having taught at Fort Lewis College, Addis Ababa University and University of Gezira (Sudan).

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