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Colgate Univ. Appoints First Muslim Chaplain

The New York-based Colgate University has appointed Ahmed Çelik as its first campus imam and student adviser to serve as a spiritual and intellectual resource for students of all faiths.

“I’m honored with such a position of being the first Muslim chaplain at Colgate. I like the way that Colgate’s staff and students know each other, relate to each other, and the way they interact with each other,” said Çelik, The Colgate Maroon News reported.

He added, “I think it’s going to be good for me to be a part of such a relatively small community, and I also like working with students.”

“I also know that I have the kind of academic and theoretical background [for] such a position.”

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Çelik, a Ph.D. candidate and instructor in religion and Middle Eastern studies at Syracuse University, will also serve as the leader of the Muslim Student Association (MSA).

Vice President and Dean of the College Paul McLoughlin announced Çelik’s appointment via email on June 3.

University Chaplain and Protestant Campus Minister Corey MacPherson said the decision followed five year of discussion since the MSA approached them with the request.

“I like to believe I was a good advisor to MSA. But I felt that I couldn’t compare to having an imam. [Students] want someone from their own religious tradition if possible, especially when it comes to meeting certain religious needs,” MacPherson said.

“Having a Muslim chaplain to help navigate through that and just all the educational opportunities alone that’ll be available on Islam for the Muslim community is huge.”

Muslim Chaplains in US

Muslim chaplains often serve both Muslims and non-Muslims, offering spiritual support and guidance, and in recent years, chaplains have acted as intra-institutional leaders who work towards greater interfaith understanding and community engagement.

Today, Muslim chaplaincy in the United States has moved away from da’wah towards a focus on support and pastoral care, according to the Association of Muslim Chaplains, a professional organization begun in 2011.

The Association of Muslim Chaplains, along with Boston University School of Medicine, April released a survey of Muslim chaplains in America.

It found that challenges included the need for more “strong Muslim institutions” to conduct the training and provide financial support, personal support, gender expectations, and the social climate.