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Minnesota Program Offers Training to Muslim Chaplains

Minnesota Program Offers Training to Muslim Chaplains
Sharif Mohamed, right, role-played as a chaplain while helping to lead the training program last month. (JEFF WHEELER • [email protected])

A new program seeking to certify Muslim chaplains has been launched in Minnesota, offering them the professional training typically required to serve in hospitals and other top jobs, Star Tribune reported.

“I think this training is a good idea,” said Imam Abdillahi Mohamud, of the Omar Sabri Mosque and Islamic Center in Minneapolis, taking a break between sessions.

“I already know how to deal with different types of people, and different problems,” he said. “And I know this [service] is needed. If I can pass the test, I will try to be a chaplain.”

Minnesota is home to an estimated 150,000 Muslims, a number expected to rise.

While there are several Muslims employed as chaplains, Mohamud is the only one on track to finish the professional training typically required to serve in that role in hospitals and other top jobs.

The two-year project, launched this spring, is rare in the nation, said Imam Sharif Abdirahman Mohamed, co-founder of Open Path Resources, a Minneapolis nonprofit that created the training.

It’s designed to introduce Muslim leaders to the issues and knowledge base needed for Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) certification, the primary professional degree in the chaplaincy field.

The project also is working to create internships and employment pathways in Twin Cities medical settings where students can get direct experience on the job, the imam said.

“I will finish it [the training] because it is so needed,” said Jamilla Hassan, a medical interpreter.

“A lot of people don’t like to deal with sickness and trauma. Some people don’t even like to go to hospitals. But we all hurt the same.”

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Muslim Chaplains in the US

Though chaplaincy has roots in the Christian tradition, Muslims in America have embraced the model as a way to provide faith-based guidance in institutional contexts, particularly in the military, on campuses, in hospitals, and in correctional facilities.

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 the Association of Muslim Chaplains, a professional organization begun in 2011.

The Association of Muslim Chaplains, along with Boston University School of Medicine, in 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.

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