Kathmandu Summer Intensive: Madrasa Discourses

Jul 15 2017 - Jul 30 2017
All Day

Kathmandu Summer Intensive

Group photograph of Indian, Pakistani and US (Notre Dame University undergraduates) participants in the Templeton Foundation funded program “Advancing Theological and Scientific Literacy in Madrasa Discourses.” The Summer Intensive, held in Kathmandu from 15-30 July 2017, addressed “Society and Citizenship in an Age of Contested Cosmologies.” (Photo courtesy Waqas Khan.)


What is it that really divides one culture from another? Are traditional divisions still tenable in an increasingly interconnected and globalized world? How do traditions maintain their uniqueness while recognizing historical and intellectual common ground with others?

The Kathmandu Summer Intensive, a two-week course within the three-year “Advancing Theological and Scientific Literacy in Madrasa Discourses” project funded by the John Templeton Foundation, hosted 25 young Indian and Pakistani scholars trained in Muslim theological seminaries alongside seven peers from the University of Notre Dame. Together they explored questions of tradition and cultural frameworks, engaged in dialogues, gave presentations, and explored the city of Kathmandu. The students were guided in their learning by experts from the University of Notre Dame, Duke University, and the University of Toronto, as well as local practitioners based in Nepal and project faculty members from India and Pakistan.

Mahan Mirza launched the intensive with a discussion of the challenges modern science poses to traditional epistemic frameworks of religion, while Scott Appleby followed with a three-day exploration of the varieties of secularism, and how monotheistic religions engage them. Leela Prasad taught a further two days on the concept of co-being and Advaita philosophy within Hinduism as resources for healing divisions between peoples. Local Nepali activists Prakash Bhattarai and Shubham Amatya discussed gender equality and social change in light of global norms on human rights. Ebrahim Moosa discussed the concept of Sharia, the imperative to view it as promoting the common good, and the need to understand it historically. The final three days were taught by Mohammad Fadel, who drew on the political philosopher John Rawls to offer ways in which historical Islam can develop an overlapping consensus with political liberalism and deal with the challenge of human rights in ways that respect Islam, democracy, and individual choice.

It was great trip, and we’re looking forward to our 2018 and 2019 summer intensives!

Check out some of the pictures from the trip below!

To reach the summit of Swayambhunath, also known as ‘The Monkey Temple,’ our students climbed 365 steps while admiring the beautiful architecture and mischievous monkeys.

Project Lead Dr. Mahan Mirza and Mentor Clint Niehus greet students at the Kathmandu Summer Intensive.

Dr. Ebrahim Moosa spins prayer wheels, on which are written the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum.’ Buddhists spin these wheels as a form of prayer, as they circle the Swayambhunath Stupa in Kathmandu.

Keough School Dean Scott Appleby leads an interactive session with madrasa and Notre Dame students on the history of Catholicism in the United States. He drew parallels between longtime debates over the place of religion in American life with the religious nature of life in Pakistani and Indian societies.

Pakistani student Waqas Khan shares the highlights from the discussion his table had been having on the topics of the day.

(L-R) Maquabool Alam, Manzar Imam, Jebraune Chambers, Abdul Ghani, Sumera Rabia, and Muhammad Shahzad engage in discussion on the day’s topics.

Eight women participated in the program, including (L-R) Pakistani student Sumera Rabia, and American students Jebraune Chambers, Maggie Feighery, Alaina Anderson, Nabila Mourad, Kirsten Hanlon, Molly Burton, and Alice Treuth. Here they are inside a renovated temple and museum in Patan.

Contending Modernities