CAS students 2023

Clockwise: Oleksandra Kovalenko,Christian from Ukraine, Inxhi Brisku, Christian from Albania, Rabbi Margo Hunges-Robinson, Jewish from USA, Mohammad Sadeq Sediqi, Islam, from Iran, Maayan Belding-Zidon Jewish from Israel/USA, Zahra Yazdi, Islam student from Iran, and Edmund Phillip Smith, Christian from United Kingdom.


They spoke during the week of their graduation ceremony, during which the graduates also produced a message for the world, and planted a cherry tree with a special ceremony that included reading scriptures from various traditions.  

The Certificate in Advanced Studies in Interreligious Studies has been offered at Bossey since 2005. This year, the course took place from 25 July to 11 August.

Oleksandra Kovalenko, a Christian from Ukraine, reflected that students had the chance to share prayers in their native languages. “I am grateful for these moments of synergy,” said Kovalenko.

Zahra Yazdi, a Muslim student from Iran, named mutual understanding and respect as great lessons learned. “We introduced our religions in a way that we practice in real situations without any concerns about the political or cultural judgments,” said Yazdi.

Mohammad Sadeq Sediqi, also a Muslim student from Iran, reflected that understanding each other requires real experiences. “Many of us live with different people during our lives, and some have had brief encounters with other cultures and religions,” said Sediqi. “Yet, true dialogue happens when friendships form, enabling a common understanding.”

The three-week program included many shared experiences: attending classes, eating, and exploring local surroundings. “Participants learn each other's rituals, pray in spiritual sharing, and read each other's holy texts,” said Sediqi. “It's a transformative journey of embracing differences, finding similarities, and reaching a common perspective.”

Maayan Belding-Zidon, a student at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem, came to Bossey hoping to find fellow religious seekers, grounded in different faith traditions, united by a desire to understand one another more fully. “What I found at Bossey is a microcosm of a world that does not yet exist,” said Belding-Zidon. “In this space, we've created space for curiosity and exploration around our differences, which in the outside world often cause anxiety and fear.”

Edmund Phillip Smith, a Christian from the United Kingdom, spoke of reexamining traditions. “I have been challenged to rethink the ways in which my own tradition has been used to harm others, whilst at the same time being encouraged to hold fast to that which is best in my tradition,” he said.

Inxhi Brisku, a Christian from Albania, reflected on the students’ high expectations for the course. “From the moment I applied to attend the summer course Certificate of Advanced Studies in Interreligious Studies, my expectations were high,” said Brisku. “This is because of the good name of the Ecumenical Institute in the church circles that I have known so far.”

Rabbi Margo Hunges-Robinson, from the USA noted that interreligious dialogue and organizing is an essential part of her rabbinic work. “From its open approach to scriptural reasoning, to our field visits to local partner religious communities, to the opportunity to deeply research the faith-based underpinnings of my work in solidarity with homeless New Yorkers — every day was an invitation to go deeper, and root into the heart of this work,” she said.

"Ecumenical Institute at Bossey celebrates graduation for interreligious studies students" - WCC news release 14 August 2023

"Message of Bossey graduates: “work together to pursue health and wholeness for all”" - WCC news release 11 August 2023

"Interreligious summer course opens in Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, where students will explore health and wholeness" - WCC news release 27 July 2023