Three students from Indonesia with experience in interfaith dialogue and a commitment to religious harmony have arrived at Hartford Seminary to begin their studies toward a Master of Arts in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations.
The students are the first to benefit from an agreement between the Seminary and Nahdlatul Ulama, which is based in Indonesia and is the world?s largest independent Muslim organization. NU provides scholarships to enable the students to study in Hartford. They will start courses when the winter/spring 2013 semester starts on January 22.
At the time of the signing of the agreement, Heidi Hadsell, President of Hartford Seminary, said, ?I am delighted to have NU and the Indonesian government as partners. Their agreement to send students strengthens our commitment to prepare peacemakers and make a positive contribution to interreligious understanding. It also enriches the community of dialogue here on campus and in local faith communities.?
The students are, left to right, Lien Iffah Naf?atu Fina from Yogyakarta, Gugun Gumilar from Purwakarta and Luthfi Rahman from Kudus.
Lien is an English lecturer at the Center for Language, Culture and Religion at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta.
She is active in Fatayat, NU?s organization for women. ?One of Fatayat?s concerns is working for internal and interreligious harmony in society”, she said.
At Hartford Seminary, Lien said, ?living in such a plural community will shape the experiences I need to work for my future career and my community.”
?My past experience has taught me to understand rather than blame others who are different. Teaching and being a religious-social activist are my devotion to life,? she said.
Gugunis a lecturer at the State Islamic University of Sunan Gunung Djati in Bandung, Indonesia.
He is a 2011 graduate of the Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders on Religious Pluralism, studying U.S. history, society and institutions within the context of religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue for four weeks at Temple University, Philadelphia.
Gugun said he hopes his studies will help him engage in interreligious activities that will foster ?engagement with civil society as a strategic key for developing and promoting peace for a better Indonesia.?
Luthfi is on the English teaching staff at the Center for Language and Culture at the Islamic Theology Faculty State Institute for Islamic Studies Walisongo Semarang.
He took a two-month course at the University of South Carolina, where, he said, ?Discussions with other international students made me realize that as human beings, we are rich through various cultures and these cultures need to be appreciated.?
He said his studies will help ?broaden my knowledge and construct good and moderate understanding of how Islam should be in dealing with diversity and interreligious issues.?
?I will try to contribute myself to disseminate peace and promote peaceful theology based on moderate Islam. Hopefully, there will be no radicalism, war, violence and dispute among religions,? he said.
In late 2011, Dr. H. Marsudi Syuhud, general secretary of NU, and Professor Dr. Said Aqil Siroj, general chairman, visited Hartford Seminary to initiate discussions that have led to the agreement.
NU funds schools, hospitals, and other institutions in Indonesia. It organizes communities in order to help combat poverty. NU manages 18,000 boarding schools from elementary to senior high school and 112 universities as well as 124 hospitals and other institutions. It has more than 40 million members.