Lehigh's Dialogue Center Increases Its International Footprint

Lehigh University’s Center for Dialogue, Ethics and Spirituality—the Dialogue Center—has been involved recently in several initiatives that have expanded Lehigh’s international involvement.

Lehigh’s Dialogue Center has joined numerous institutions, institutes and programs dedicated to bioethics and public health as a network affiliate in the International Academy of Medical Ethics and Public Health. Emory University’s Center for Ethics, Yale’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School’s Program in Psychiatry and Law and scores of national and international institutes related to bioethics from around the world have also signed on as affiliates.

As a founding member of the Academy, Lehigh was invited to participate in the formal inauguration ceremonies held in Prague at the Charles University Law School.  The International Academy of Medical Ethics and Public Health is headquartered at the Université René Descartes (Sorbonne Paris Cité).

Dialogue Center Director and Professor of Religion Studies Lloyd Steffen participated in the inauguration ceremonies that established the new international scholarly organization and noted that the Academy of Medical Ethics and Public Health is “seeking to bring scholars from around the world together to investigate groundbreaking issues in bioethics. The organization is dedicated to including diverse perspectives culturally, philosophically and even politically.” 

As part of Lehigh’s connection to the organization, a bioethics conference in collaboration with the International Academy and the Northern Plains Ethics Institute focused on the topic “Controversies in Bioethics” will be held at Lehigh in April 2018. Planning is currently underway for that event.

The Dialogue Center also organized and led a spring break trip this year to Israel, and planning is underway for another spring break trip in 2019.  Funding to help with the cost of the trip was provided by the Russell Berrie Foundation. 

Additionally, the Dialogue Center has forged a relationship with the Lay Center in Rome, a non-profit organization that has made inter-religious dialogue a core aspect of its mission. The Lay Center hosted four Iacocca interns during the summer last year, and plans are underway to do so again in 2018. Students helped the Center prepare for an international conference and took advantage of opportunities to learn about the work of a non-profit dedicated to religious dialogue in one of the world’s great cities.

Lehigh’s new Director of Muslim Student Life, Dr. Walead Mosaad, has also been busy with international involvements. Having traveled earlier in the year to Malaysia, Africa and Europe, Mosaad recently received an invitation to participate in the Catholic-Muslim Forum founded in 2008 by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The forum addressed the topic, “Integral Human Development: Growing in Dignity, Catholic and Muslim Perspectives.” 

Mosaad lectured this Fall at Bayan Claremont, a division of the Claremont School of Theology, and at Princeton University. He will be attending an academic symposium on the Muslim world and science in Abu Dhabi, and he will present a paper on epistemic realism and metaphysics at Cambridge University.

“The Dialogue Center,” according to Steffen, is “a building on campus, but also a program. We seek to promote ethical awareness, spiritual understanding and inter-religious encounter in support of the university’s educational mission.”

The Dialogue Center opened in the wake of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s weeklong visit to Lehigh in 2008. The Center, which houses the Chaplain’s Office, a Meditation Room and the campus’s Muslim Prayer Room, offers programs like Lehigh’s Prison Project and the Multi-Faith Initiative, and partners with other programs and departments on campus to sponsor speakers and opportunities for discussion and dialogue. The Center provides a comfortable and homey space for student group gatherings, committee meetings, departmental retreats and academic classes.

Adds Steffen, “We have sought to support university efforts to create opportunities for international educational experiences, and now, with our involvement in the International Academy of Medical Ethics and Public Health, we hope to provide support for health-related initiatives currently underway at Lehigh.”

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