ATLANTA – Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology and Aligarh Muslim University in India are participating in a professor exchange program this semester.
Dr. Loyd Allen, Sylvan Hills Baptist Church Professor of Church History and Spiritual Formation at McAfee, served as a visiting professor at Aligarh from Feb. 28-March 20, teaching the history of Christianity to Muslim students preparing to be imams.
Dr. Towqueer Alam, professor of Sunni theology at Aligarh, has served as a visiting professor at McAfee since April 8, teaching Muslim theology and the understanding of Jesus Christ and Christianity in the Quran to Christian students preparing to be ministers.
“In the current religious and political climate that exists in the world, this kind of program, in which a Christian scholar and a Muslim scholar exchange places for the purpose of teaching each other's students about the true meaning of their religion, is some of the most important work that we can do,” said Dr. Rob Nash, interim dean of McAfee. “Professor Alam and Professor Allen are both excellent classroom teachers whose ability to communicate with students will help to make them better global citizens.”
While in the U.S., Dr. Alam has met with Mercer faculty and staff, toured Metro Atlanta, traveled to the University's Macon campus, visited several places of worship, and presented and co-presented multiple guest lectures. He also participated in a tree-planting ceremony at the Atlanta campus interfaith prayer garden and labyrinth held to commemorate the partnership between Mercer and Aligarh.
“I think it is extremely important that this kind of professor exchange continue,” said Dr. Alam, who is set to return to India on April 30. “According to my humble submission, the academic and cultural exchange of students from Mercer and Aligarh should also be materialized.”
Dr. Alam earned his Ph.D. from Aligarh in 1991, and has served in a full-time teaching capacity at the university since 1993. He has published 28 books, with several others in progress, authored more than 200 papers and presented at 130 national and international seminars, conferences and symposia.
While in India, Dr. Allen lectured on topics such as the history of Christianity with special attention to Islamic contacts, Christian spiritual formation, Christian scripture and the Quran, and Christianity in America. He presented on Mercer's science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for the International Conference on Nanotechnology and STEM Education and Research, hosted by Aligarh and The Ohio State University. He also served as keynote speaker at the Aligarh Conference on Islamaphobia.
Under the sponsorship of the Atlanta Aligarh Alumni Association, Dr. Allen then traveled to present lectures on interfaith work and Islamaphobia at Lucknow, the Jahangirabad Institute of Technology, a mosque in Gorakhpur and a joint interfaith meeting of Jesuits and Muslims at the Indialogue Foundation.
“This exchange of theology professors between Mercer and Aligarh is a powerful tool for religious and cultural education between Muslims and Christians,” said Dr. Allen. “It is a small but important step toward reconciliation and understanding at a point in history when such efforts are especially called for in the face of misunderstanding and hostility between these two great faiths. The two schools need each other in order to fulfill their commitments to justice, peace and compassionate service to all humankind.”
Dr. Allen earned his Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1984. He received appointments to Brewton-Parker College, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mississippi College before joining the founding faculty of McAfee for the School's opening in 1996. He has published two books, authored numerous articles and is a frequent lecturer and presenter in the U.S. and abroad.
Representatives of the Atlanta Aligarh Alumni Association first approached Dr. Alan Culpepper, former dean of McAfee, about participating in an exchange program. Dr. Culpepper and Dr. Richard Swindle, former senior vice president for Atlanta, traveled to India in December 2014. Aligarh's pro-vice chancellor, retired Brigadier Syed Ahmad Ali, reciprocated with a visit to the U.S. in June 2015. Mercer's College of Pharmacy and Penfield College have also been involved in the partnership with Aligarh.
About the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology
The James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology was established in 1996. Located in Atlanta, on Mercer University's Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus, the School of Theology offers degree programs leading to a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. The School of Theology also offers several joint programs: an M.Div.-Master of Business Administration, M.Div.-Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and M.Div.-Master of Science in Organizational Leadership with a Concentration in Non-Profit. For more information, visit theology.mercer.edu.