Working to improve mutual understanding between the Middle East and the West


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2019 Fellowship Retreat

The 2019 Retreat


The 2019 Retreat took place at Missenden Abbey, Great Missenden. It was facilitated by Dr Joshua Ralston and Dr Omar Anchassi of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Mona Siddiqui delivered the keynote on the evening of 23 April on the topic of Themes and Reflections in Christian Muslim Relations. The retreat was partially sponsored by the Christian-Muslim Studies Network, supported by the Henri Luce Foundation; Gingko also gratefully acknowledges a donation from the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey, the Stiftung – Gingko Library and a donation from an anonymous donor who wanted to dedicate his donation to the victims of the shooting at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, especially to the first victim who greeted the assassin with the words ‘Hello Brother’.

The Retreat opened on Tuesday evening with a keynote lecture by Professor Mona Siddiqui. Professor Siddiqui, who is Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and co-founder of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network, spoke on some of the ways in which God’s unity, ethics and friendship shape Christian-Muslim relations. The academic seminars that followed over the next two days were facilitated by Dr Joshua Ralston and Dr Omar Anchassi, and included sessions on the possibilities and perils of comparative study and the importance of interdisciplinarity in interfaith discussions. A workshop was led by Dr Romina Istratii, a Gingko Fellowship alumna based at SOAS, on developing a strong alumni network, and another workshop, titled “The Hero’s Journey”, was led by Dr Emma Fosbury, an alumna of the Westminster Abbey Institute Fellowship scheme.


Testimonies from the 2019 Fellows:

 ‘This retreat is one I looked forward to from the time we finished the last one and my expectations were not disappointed. I am so glad I had this opportunity to learn and deepen relationships and I am already looking forward to next year’s retreat.
-Joel Pierce, PhD candidate at University of Aberdeen

I had always thought that I can learn about Christianity from books and texts, and used to believe that interacting with Christian fellows is of secondary importance (as opposed to studying Christianity from texts). But the retreat totally changed this view, and made me aware of the fact that what one can learn from personal interactions is enormous, if properly organised.’
-Mohammed Gamal Metawea, PhD candidate at SOAS, University of London

 ‘The Gingko Fellowship has offered me opportunities to meet Muslims and Christians in a spirit and community I’ve not found in my divinity faculty. Thus, it can serve as a wonderful example to share and inspire them and other initiatives. I feel enthused to help expand such benefits in global trouble spots, to foster peace through conflict resolution, by replicating some of the things learned on the Gingko retreats.’
-M. Imran Khan, PhD candidate the University of Cambridge

This well-organised retreat, held at the beautiful Missenden Abbey amid flowering bluebells, was an ideal platform to make connections and build friendships that will last a lifetime. The seminars pushed our intellectual horizons, while the convivial activities provided fertile soil for fostering camaraderie. It was brilliant!
-Wen Pin Leow, MA student, University of Oxford

The Gingko Fellowship Retreat has been crucial to the formation of my own academic voice as a theologian. It has forged friendships for me that are both helpful for research and also full of promise for real change in how we represent each others’ faiths in our own institutions. It has left me hopeful for real, small changes in academia during my lifetime.’
-Steven Firmin, PhD candidate at University of Oxford

The Gingko Fellowship is a challenging and engaging, yet rewarding, venture into one of the most challenging fields of interfaith encounter, between Christians and Muslims, East and West. I feel prepared to model this in my community.’
-Lucy Schouten, PhD candidate at University of Edinburgh


Christian-Muslim Studies Network

The Christian-Muslim Studies Network is an interdisciplinary, global research network based at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. By fostering scholarship that is committed to both the particularity of tradition and the critical lens of academic engagement, the Christian-Muslim Studies Network seeks to enhance public and academic discourse surrounding Islam and Christianity. The Network director, Dr Joshua Ralston, is a Christian theologian whose interdisciplinary scholarship explores theological, ethical, legal-political, and scriptural encounters between Christians and Muslims in both historical and contemporary contexts. Professor Mona Siddiqui is Chair of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity and one of the UK’s most distinguished Muslim scholars, and her research lies in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and ethics and Christian-Muslim relations. Dr Omar Anchassi is a scholar of Islam whose work spans the disciplines of history, Arab and Islamic Studies, and theology, including interfaith encounter between Christians and Muslims.


Click here to read the press release for the 2019 Retreat.