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Muslim scholar from Iran grateful for interfaith experience

Muslim scholar from Iran grateful for interfaith experience

©Peter Kenny/WCC

13 July 2017

For Dr Vahid Sohrabifar from Iran’s city of Qom, attending the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Interreligious Studies at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey was inspiring due to the diversity he encountered on the course.

He is as an academic at the University of Religions and Denominations in Qom located 125 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of Tehran, which houses the shrine of Fatima Masumeh, considered by Shi’a Muslims as holy.

“I am thankful to the WCC to know about this great job they are doing all around the world with their interfaith work. As a Muslim from Iran and the Middle East, I am really grateful to be a part of this project,” he said.

He recently defended his PhD titled, “The impacts of modernity upon religion and spirituality: a critical study of Charles Taylor” and celebrated his 29th birthday on 11 July, the day he was interviewed.

“I was expecting a diverse atmosphere with people of the three great faiths. And it truly was so - very fruitful in this regard,” said Sohrabifar who could share the 26 June-14 July course with an Iranian woman from Tehran.

“I really enjoyed meeting people from North America, from Africa, Europe and Asia with different cultural backgrounds and beliefs. You can never stop learning from these meetings,” he explained.

It was inspiring that almost each day the students attended courses on “scripture reasoning encountering God from one of three different faiths” – Christianity, Judaism and Islam and students also learned about equality of women.

Encountering people of different faith was something Sohrabifar had done before, so he did not feel he came into the course battling prejudices, but rather was pleasantly surprised at the diversity he encountered.

Sohrabifar studied for 10 years in an Iranian Islamic seminary before becoming an academic, taking the courses an imam does, but chose to stay an academic rather than becoming a cleric.

“The most important thing you can learn in this kind of encounter is to see there is a beauty, dignity and honour in every person regardless of their beliefs or their race or their geographical condition.

“We are all children of God. If we are able to learn this dignity, we can all live with each other, in peaceful coexistence,” he said.

"Young people gather for peacebuilding in Judaism, Christianity and Islam" - WCC news release from 28 June 2017

Bossey Ecumenical Institute