Where in the real world can people from Saudi Arabia and Israel, from Pakistan and Morocco, discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict in a safe and secure environment? Where can you learn about both the similarities and differences which underpin their respective religions as well as relations between them? Where can you gain the skills and understanding to break down barriers and build bridges between communities?
The Woolf Institute has been at the forefront of online study for many years – our continued online presence is a testament to our commitment to distance learning and continuing education, and to gathering a global community of learners interested in the multidisciplinary study of relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims.
I am definitely not a ‘techie’ nor have I ever professed to be one! But there is no getting away from the fact that technology is the key component for global communication; technology, in all its guises, is very much part of our everyday life. One of the most sited advantages of online learning is the flexibility it offers. Being able to access course materials at any time of the day is clearly used in busy schedules. But the Woolf Institute’s online courses offer something even more valuable: they create safe spaces for open discussions between participants which will, we hope, foster greater understanding and awareness. The subject matter is thought-provoking and challenging but enables participants to find their voice, to ask questions, to engage with a global group and share personal experiences. The impact a course can have on an individual should not be underestimated – participants have the opportunity to become ambassadors of knowledge and engagement in their neighbourhood, in the wider community and in the workplace.
I have certainly been inspired through my work at the Institute. A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim sit together in an office. What do you get? This isn’t the start of a joke! The answer is very simple: you get respect. You achieve a level of understanding and collegiality which inspired the three of us to create an online course – Religion is… was a twinkling idea of mine which had gnawed at me for many years. It now seemed the right time to act. Understanding each other in our everyday, practical lives is enlightening and is, at the same time, very challenging but leads to greater respect of your neighbour. During the course creation, I have learnt to appreciate more fully the beliefs and practices of my colleagues as well as my own. It has given me a voice – a voice that can be heard. I am proud to be part of an Institute which has provided me with the opportunity to work with, be inspired by and engage with colleagues and students to whom dialogue and understanding matters.
Be inspired to make a difference and start the New Year in a positive way. I am not suggesting that we will change the world but by becoming more informed, we can begin to make a difference. Together, we can break down barriers by understanding the similarities we share, reflecting on our differences and becoming more aware of how to respect and accommodate the views of others.
Learn for the future. Learn for the NOW. Begin a new journey (a hassle free, no traffic, virtual one!). You don’t quite know where this voyage of discovery will lead but, hopefully, you will take part in a rewarding and worthwhile experience.
Apply now and join the conversation online.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the current available course options for further details: Bridging the Great Divide: the Jewish-Muslim Encounter and Religion is…
And, by the way, listen to the podcast of Dr Ed Kessler and Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner in conversation on Bridging the Great Divide: the Jewish-Muslim Encounter: https://vimeo.com/192614712
Dr Emma Harris is the Academic Coordinator of the Woolf Institute.