Working to improve mutual understanding between the Middle East and the West
This 2022 Fellowship Retreat was held in Cairo at the All Saints Garden Conference Center (ASGCC) from 7th – 11th May. The Retreat brought together twenty-three Fellows from Egypt, the United Kingdom, North America and West Africa. The programme was packed with engaging and insightful activities ranging from academic workshops to explorations of the historical and cultural heritage of Cairo, including a special tour of Al Azhar Mosque, the churches of Old Cairo and the Coptic Museum, as well a market supporting local artisans in the City of the Dead.
An evaluation of the Cairo Retreat was made to measure the impact of this interfaith project. An online survey was conducted before and after the Retreat, using questions developed by the Woolf Institute’s evaluation toolkit. At both stages the questions were answered by the Fellows anonymously.
The findings of this survey indicate that the Fellowship Retreat is highly valued by the Fellows as a useful and distinctive experience during which they can meet early career scholars and religious community leaders of other faiths in a safe surrounding and have frank, respectful discussions. The Fellows were pleased that the Retreat exposed them to each other’s beliefs and practices and offered them opportunities to learn more about the research interests of other Fellows, and to initiate interfaith collaborations. The Fellows highlighted the tour of the Al-Azhar Mosque, the Scriptural Reasoning workshop, and learning about Coptic Christianity as some of the most interesting elements of the Retreat.
“The Fellowship has enabled me to be in the sacred spaces of other people, to understand better the rationale behind their practices and to become more confident about my own faith and engaging with other faiths.”
GINGKO’s Trustees were encouraged by the way the Fellows engaged with each other and expect a number of collaborations will emerge from the Retreat. At the end of the Retreat the Trustees called for entries to the next Gingko Fellowship Collaboration Prize and issued a Call-for- Papers for a symposium to be organised by Gingko in September 2023. A selection of these papers will be published in an edited volume a year later.
The Trustees were also delighted to agree a joint project with Archbishop emeritus Mouneer Anis, the Director of the new Centre of Christian-Muslim Understanding and Partnership in Cairo. In December 2022 Dr Mohammed Gamal Abdelnour, a Gingko Fellow and Trustee, will teach a one-week intensive immersion course at the CCMUP. Driven by the need to deepen our knowledge of Islam and its challenging place in the modern world, the course will be designed to help its students make sense of the Islamic tradition, its various dimensions and schools, and will offer them a well-rounded idea of the turning points and major landscapes of classical and modern Islam. The course will be taught in English and in February 2023 will be repeated and offered in Arabic.