The Centre for Interreligious Learning and Dialogue (CILD) celebrated their new name with a presentation by PhD candidate Siham Elkassem, BSW '15, MSW '16, Lecturer in the School of Social Work, on October 13, 2022. The Centre’s name was changed from the Centre for Jewish-Catholic-Muslim Learning in February 2022 to reflect its mandate of fostering interreligious learning through authentic dialogue.

 “We felt the need to make the name reflect a greater inclusivity,” said Dr. Julius-Kei (J.K.) Kato, Director of CILD, and Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies. In its previous incarnation, the Centre was focused on the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The renamed centre’s scope of activity has been extended to include all religious traditions.

Dr. Kato, who has been the Centre’s director since 2021, says that he has a preliminary vision of CILD, and that they are in the process of recreating the centre and its board, constitutions and vision.

The first part of that vision is the belief that the great religions and wisdom traditions of humanity can work hand in hand for the good of all people by furthering greater justice, peace and harmony. Dr. Kato says CILD’s aim is to “help further learning about various traditions by creating venues in which people of these faiths can represent themselves to others, thus reducing the sense of alienation often felt among adherents of different religious traditions.”

It was in that spirit of representation that he invited Elkassem to speak at the relaunch event. The two had met during their work on the King’s/Brescia Joint Presidents' Anti-Racism Working Group (KB-ARWG).

Elkassem, a researcher and family therapist, spoke about “Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Racism in the Forest City and Beyond.” Her most recent work is based on interviews with 25 London Muslim youth between the ages of 18 and 25; these interviews were done four months after the truck attack on the Afzaal family in London. The interview subjects spoke of the effects of acts of violence, as well as explicit or insidious messages of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism from schoolmates, co-workers and customers, and in the media. Elkassem says that young Muslims in London have a heightened sense of fear, especially black, female Muslims who wear the hijab. She outlines how her research supports the claim that Muslim children and youth are vulnerable, and will help us to understand what we need to do to support them, and combat the problem.

Dr. Kato says that CILD will provide opportunities to educate people within and outside the King’s community about religions and spiritualities. “The Centre will strive to enhance religious literacy and knowledge to enable more people to have a proper and deeper understanding and genuine appreciation of our rich religious heritages.”

To learn more about CILD, visit the Centre for Interreligious Learning and Dialogue.