Monday, April 2, 2007

Muslim chaplains share the faith

Imam Salih Yucel is a Muslim chaplain at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, one of a small but growing group:

Yucel is the only Muslim chaplain in the Boston area with clinical pastoral education, an interfaith training program that teaches spiritual leaders how to care for people in crisis, says Mary Robinson, director of Children's Hospital's Chaplaincy program. Because of this training, Robinson says, "if he were doing a preoperative visit, he's skilled in caring for a Roman Catholic or a Jew or a Protestant who would like to have prayer before their surgery."

The training is one of the qualifications employers seek when they hire chaplains, but it's a rarity among imams, Robinson says. In fact, Robinson remembers that when the hospital hired its first Muslim chaplain 13 years ago, it couldn't find an applicant with the certification.

That situation is changing with the help of Connecticut's Hartford Seminary, which seven years ago established what remains the only degree program in the nation for Muslim chaplains — religious leaders who do their work in institutions such as prisons, colleges and universities, corporations, the military or, as in Yucel's case, hospitals. Hartford Seminary offers a 48-credit master of arts degree in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, which takes two years to complete. There's also a one-year, 24-credit graduate certificate. Together, the two degrees equal a master's of divinity, the basic requirement for many chaplaincy jobs.

The program began with three participants. This year, 34 students are enrolled. Graduates most often work in higher education or in the military, but the seminary fields job requests from a variety of places.

No comments: