In a ceremony on December 7, 2011, Nazareth College of Rochester became the beneficiary of a new academic chair endowed by IIIT. The chair appropriately named ‘International Institute of Islamic Thought Chair in Interfaith Studies and Dialogue’ is placed in the Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue, which is now named after Brian and Jean Hickey who gifted funds to endow the Center. Mr. Brian Hickey is a trustee of the College. The IIIT donation was a challenge grant for which the Hickeys provided matching donation.
Dr.Iqbal Unus, Director of The Fairfax Institute at IIIT, represented IIIT at the ceremony. After the Hickeys cut the ribbon to inaugurate the Brian and Jean Hickey Center, Dr. Unus unveiled the plaque to inaugurate the IIIT Chair.
I admire and appreciate the work of Nazareth College. They recognize that faith is a major element in solving problems and movingahead," Dr.Unus said, pointing out that a better understanding of religions and faith was crucial, even though politician tend to push faith away when trying to solve inevitable conflicts around the world.
Also speaking at the inauguration, Nazareth College president Daan Braveman called the day “truly a milestone for Nazareth College," adding that the College believed that the real goal of the center is “to get people to believe that religious differences should be a source of strength and not a source of divisions."Mr. Hickey, executive vice president at M&T Bank, said he was impressed bythe work done at Nazareth College in interfaith understanding, dialogue and collaboration.
Later at a luncheon attended by college and community leaders, president Braveman announced that Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, professor of religious studies and Center’s executive director, will bethe first occupant of the IIIT Chair. President Braveman spoke of the role the Center would play in enhancing the study of religion at the College. Mrs. Jean Hickey expressed the hope that their contribution will provide greater prominence to that work and inspire others to continue it in Rochester and beyond. Dr. Unus expressed IIIT’s hope and expectation that the Center will enhancethe academic study of religions and their role in underpinning the dynamics of inter-personal relations among people in a pluralistic society.
Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, the executive director of CISD since its inception, expressed his excitement for the numerous opportunities that the two gifts will provide. Nazareth currently offers only a minor in interfaith studies. Dr. Shafiq hopes that with the new funding, an undergraduate major and a master's degree will be offered within two years, and a doctoral program may also be in the College’s future.
The relationship between Nazareth College and IIIT emanates from their common goal for interfaith awareness and dialogue, and dates from the signing of an agreement in 2006 to develop research tools, knowledge, and skills that may benefit a religiously diverse humanity.