Atlanta’s Aligarh Alumni Association and Mercer University strengthen ties
Sunday, April 10, 2016 was an important day in promoting peace, goodwill, and understanding among Atlanta communities. Symbolic of that goal, a tree planting ceremony was held at the Mercer University–Atlanta campus in which members of the Aligarh Alumni Association of Atlanta (AAAA) and Mercer officials participated. Leading the ceremony,Dr. Robert Nash, Interim Dean of Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology, briefly explained the Baptistdenomination’s role in promoting freedom of religion. He also welcomed Dr. Towqueer Alam, Professor of Islamic Studies at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU, Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, India), visiting MercerUniversity as part of the faculty-exchange program. Dr. Alam also led in planting the tree.
Dr. Alan Culpepper, former Dean of McAfeeTheology School, reminded how misunderstanding of other traditions breeds mistrust, prejudice, and hostility, and he expressed hope that our efforts help alleviate those misunderstandings.
Speaking on behalf of AAAA, Dr. Jalal Zuberi, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, commended the ongoing collaboration of faculty-exchange program and hoped that it will advance further to include student exchanges. He acknowledged and appreciated the contributions of AAAA members, specifically Hasan Kamal, Mohammed Qayum, Dr. Asif Taufique, and the generosity of Aziz Dhanani in establishing the Peace Garden at the center of Mercer campus.Charlotte Connah, an interfaith leader and a keysupporter of this initiative, passionately recountedthe journey and thanked everyone who aided in the process. Dr. Loyd Allen, Professor of Church History and Spiritual Formation, led the closing invocation and prayed for the success of this venture. Others present on this occasion were Mohammed Qayum,Dr. Wasi Siddiqui, Syed Waseem, Rukhsana Waseem, Dr. Rasheed Ahmad, Yasir Nomani, Dr. Shoeb Ahmad, Nasir Farooqui, Zubair Asmi,Nadeem Fatmi, Dr. Gulshan Harjee, Dr. Richard Swindle, andDr. S.M. Ghazanfar, along with some families.
After the event, Mercer University hosted a sumptuous dinner in honor of Dr. Towqueer Alam. Dr. Alam’s visit ties to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the two universities two years ago. Under thisprogram, Dr. Lloyd Allen visited AMU last February where he taught Church History. During his 4-week visit, Dr. Alam will teach courses onIslam and also participate in conversations on such topics as Islamic perspectives on human rights, peace, and justice, the role of Prophet Jesus, and so forth.
It is worth mentioning that the current Mercer-AMU collaboration emerged from several interfaith meetings at the Mercer campus. Encouraged by the initial donation of land and funds fromMercer University, Atlanta’s Aligarh Alumni Association generated the major portion of resources. The Peace Garden is now a reality, as is the Mercer-AMU joint program, with sincere hopes that such efforts will go a long way toward promoting peace, goodwill, and mutual understanding.
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