The Center for Campus Ministry at the University of St. Thomas co-hosted with Macalaster College and Hamline University the annual conference of the Association of Campus Muslim Chaplains (ACMC) from March 1-3.  Participants from all over the U.S. and Canada discussed issues of critical importance to chaplains, such as interfaith healing, supporting struggling youth to maintain their faith, promoting inclusion for religious, spiritual, and secular identities, and discerning one’s own calling.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Healing Our Campuses Whilst Healing Ourselves: Prophetic Approaches to Reconciliation & Repair.” A local imam, activist and Muslim chaplain for the Minneapolis Police Department, Imam Makram El-Amin, described the tensions, vulnerabilities and contradictions Muslim chaplains face during their work. Clinical psychiatrist Layla Asamarai provided attendees with training in trauma healing. The former president of ACMC, Imam Sharif Rosen from Williams College, emphasized that chaplaincy is not work that can be done in isolation. He explained that stronger networking between Muslim chaplains and the chaplains of the other faith traditions informs all our work and provides essential support required for healthy college communities. J. Cody Nielsen, the CEO of Convergence, presented the audience with the status of higher education in U.S. schools and a framework toward more inclusive higher education. In his closing remarks, Father Lawrence Blake, director for the Center for Campus Ministry, reminded everyone that the University of St. Thomas is committed to Pope John Paul II’s call that being a Catholic university means to be inclusive and respectful to the religious needs of students from diverse faith backgrounds.

Zabiha halal food was served during the conference, prepared by the new executive chef in University of St. Thomas’ Dining Services, Benjamin McCallum, in facilities recently developed to provide this service. The Muslim chaplains in attendance greatly appreciated not just the quality and taste of the food, but also the University of St. Thomas’ initiative to accommodate the religious dietary needs of students.

Patricia Anton, Muslim chaplain at University of Pennsylvania; Nisa Muhammad, assistant dean for religious life at Howard University; and Sadaf Rauf Shier of the University of St. Thomas were elected as president, vice president and secretary, respectively, of ACMC for the coming year.

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