The University Chaplaincy Services are welcoming two part-time volunteer Muslim chaplains, one man and one woman, onto their team as of Monday 1st April.
University Chaplain Reverend Greg Hughson said that the role of the new chaplains, Najib Lafraie and Hajjah Salmah Kassin, will be to offer pastoral care and spiritual support to Muslim students and staff, similar to the role of the Christian Chaplains. They will also assist with Chaplaincy organised educational events to “promote greater understanding about Islam, and about all religions,” said Hughson.
Hughson said Chaplaincy Services had been planning on adding a Muslim Chaplain for a number of years and said “we were not to know how necessary and important this would be, given the terrorist attacks on 15 March”. Hughson said the Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group discussed establishing a Muslim Chaplaincy as early as 2013, after Canadian academic Dr Ingrid Mattson shared her experience of training Muslim Chaplains at Hartford (Christian) Theological Seminary in the 2013 annual peace lecture.
Hughson said multi-faith Chaplaincy teams have been a growing trend over the last 20 years and have been established in universities in Europe, the USA and the UK.
The Muslim University Students’ Association (MUSA) Vice President Naser Tamimi said the presence of Muslim Chaplains will be “very positive, especially at a time like this. Many Muslim students may still feel scared or worried, so having a Muslim leader they can talk to will be of great benefit. This will also benefit new students who may not know any other Muslims on campus. I and the rest of the Muslim Students’ Association are very excited about it,” he said.
Other Muslim students Critic spoke to added that it would be very beneficial to them, one said it would be good to get pastoral support from “someone with the same faith as you.”
Students can get support from the Muslim Chaplains by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting the Chaplains’ Room on the first floor of the Union Building, by the Link.