University receives $15 million donation for religious studies institute
Observer Staff Report | Saturday, March 18, 2017
The University announced in a press release Friday that it has received a $15 million donation from South Bend residents Rafat and Zoreen Ansari and their family for the creation of a worldwide religious studies institute.
According to the press release, the future Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion will be will be included in the Donald R. Keough School of Global Affairs. R. Scott Appleby, the Marilyn Keough Dean of the Keough School, said in the press release that this addition to the school will provide opportunities for faculty members and students to explore the effect of religion on a global scale.
“The various roles of religions in alleviating suffering, accompanying the migrant and the refugee, serving the poor and reducing violent conflict are far less understood and publicized than the havoc created by a tiny minority of deluded religious extremists on every continent,” Appleby said in the release. “The Ansari Institute intends to change the conversation about religion — not by denying the troubling aspects of religious expression, but by directing attention to the vast good done by religions, and the even greater good they might accomplish in partnership with universities and other public and private institutions.”
The Ansari family said in the release they hope the institute will “help foster partnerships globally and locally,” and bring together communities “through a shared understanding of certain guiding principles inherent in all the world’s religions.”
“Notre Dame is well positioned to understand and enhance the role of religions and religious people in addressing systematic problems like poverty and violence – something we care about deeply,” the Ansaris said in the release. “Having raised our family and built our lives in this community, so close to Notre Dame, we determined that now is the ideal time to partner with the University in this new way.”
University President Fr. John Jenkins said in the release that he is grateful for the prospect of deeper interfaith understanding within the University this donation presents.
“The need for people of faith to focus on what unites us rather than on what divides us has never been more urgent,” he said in the release. “This extraordinary gift from an esteemed local Muslim family, longtime friends of Notre Dame, will allow us to bring together scholars of the first order to foster dialogue and deepen understanding. We are immensely grateful to the Ansaris for making this aspiration a reality.”