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Khaiam Dan, Seniha Yildiz and Abier El Barbary were among the first to enrol in the Muslim Studies Program at Emmanuel College
Khaiam Dan, Seniha Yildiz and Abier El Barbary. Photo by Amanda Keenan

Leap of Faith

New degree program designed to promote understanding between Christians and Muslims

This fall, Emmanuel College will officially launch a Muslim Studies program that is being called the first of its kind at a Canadian university. The courses, offered as part of a Master of Pastoral Studies degree, are designed to promote interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians, and prepare graduates for leadership roles within Canada’s fast-growing Islamic community.

The two-year, full-time graduate program will enable students from a variety of religious communities to specialize in pastoral care, serve as chaplains or work with social service agencies and not-for-profit organizations, principally in Toronto, that cater to Muslims.

“Today, anyone who takes religion seriously needs to become fluent in the language of interfaith conversation,” says Mark Toulouse, the principal of Emmanuel College and a professor of the history of Christianity. He adds that the new program aims to foster a better public understanding and appreciation of Islam in Canada.

The number of Canadians who identify as Muslim has doubled in the past decade to 940,000. In comparison, the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches have several million adherents, but growth is flat or declining. Polls show that many Christian Canadians both misunderstand and fear Islam, so Emmanuel’s new program is an important and timely effort to bridge that divide, says Toulouse.

“The program not only provides educational opportunities at the master’s level for the growing Muslim population, but also promotes dialogue, understanding and respect between current and future Christian and Muslim leaders in Canada,” he says.

The Muslim Studies program, developed in close consultation with Islamic leaders in Ontario, will offer students a selection of 20 courses in the Qur’an, the history and theological tradition of Islam, Islamic law, biomedical ethics and religious pluralism, among others.

The master’s program is the outgrowth of Emmanuel College’s groundbreaking and successful Canadian Certificate in Muslim Studies, launched in 2010 to enhance interfaith dialogue. It has been recently broadened to include courses on such topics as Muslims in Canada, spiritual care, and women and gender.

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