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Dear Starr King Friends,

Switzerland's decision to ban the construction of minarets (as reported in the Baltimore Sun on December 3) is a painful reminder that Islamaphobia is alive and well in the world. "There will be no peace in the world," Swiss theologian Hans Küng has said, "until there is peace among the world's religions."   How can such peace be born?

This week, Starr King students are heading to Istanbul, Turkey for a two week pilgrimage.  They will be studying the historic and present day inter-relationships of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, culminating in several days in Konya to coincide with the annual commemoration of Rumi's death. Dr. Ibrahim Farajajé, Starr King's Provost and Professor of Cultural Studies and Islamic Studies, will meet the students on their arrival and guide their learning and engagement.  The "Rumi Pilgrims" will meet with religious leaders, scholars, and artists from around the world and will approach the study of religion through art, poetry, music, architecture, and spiritual practice. 
Starr King's emphasis on first-hand, experiential learning and global travel is not new.  It has been an accent of the School's educational approach for many years.  In today's world, this mode of learning is more important than ever which is why we are renewing and strengthening "immersion learning" as a vital part of our pedagogy.  We value the life-changing lessons that come through interchange among diverse cultures and people.  This is a pathway to peace.
Recently, one of Starr King's distinguished graduates, Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr., expressed his gratitude for the School saying, "Instead of trying to practice what it preaches, Starr King preaches what it practices.  Starr King doesn't try to walk its talk, it talks its walk." I take his affirmation as a challenge to us to keep the focus exactly on this: on practicing the ways of living and learning that bring more understanding, compassion, justice and peace into the world.  The "Rumi Pilgrims" will be practicing walking the peace pathway.  I look forward to hearing what they will preach as a result of their practice.
Dr. Smith, now the senior pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, California - a leading, progressive black congregation - found Starr King's educational approach to be liberating and life-changing for him. If you know of someone who could benefit from a Starr King education, please recommend the School to them. (Website: www.sksm.edu).
 
In this season of winter holy days, may you, too, be a pilgrim on the pathways of liberation and peace.
    In grace and gratitude,

    Rebecca Parker
    President and Professor of Theology



Your comments and questions are always welcome.
Email me at: rparker@sksm.edu.

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