The Catalyst Initiative at The Minneapolis Foundation recently announced that it is the recipient of a $209,000 Bush Foundation Community Innovation grant for Open Path Resources (OPR) to develop the Midwest’s first Muslim chaplaincy program.

The two-year program will train 40 Muslim community leaders — both men and women — in OPR’s pilot pre-Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) courses, customized for the Muslim faith. Once trainees complete the pilot courses, OPR will coach them through the traditional CPE training.

CPE is a hospital-based model that trains candidates to serve as interfaith ministers in hospital, hospice, senior living or other health care settings. Additionally, the program aims to support Muslim candidates ministering in universities, police departments, corrections and other chaplaincy roles.

The end result of the initial two-year program will be a sorely needed influx of Muslim chaplains to serve within various organizations, including hospitals and a variety of health care settings, as well as educational institutions and law enforcement. The grant is designed to ensure that Muslim chaplains will be available across Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Mankato, Rochester and other locations in Greater Minnesota.

Also inherent in this groundbreaking program is the potential to pave a new way forward that could become a national model. Today in the U.S. there are just seven certified CPE Muslim chaplains, yet in the next 20 years, according to Pew Research, the Muslim population will be the second largest faith community in the United States. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali Muslim population, with an estimated 75,000 Somali Muslims.

Imam Sharif A. Mohamed and Michael Van Keulen are co-founders of OPR and led the development of the Muslim pre-CPE curriculum. Mohamed is the first imam to have finished CPE and become an Interfaith Ministry Chaplain in the state of Minnesota, currently ministering for Fairview Hospital Systems. Mohamed and Van Keulen recognized there was a need to improve Minnesota’s spiritual care system for Muslim patients and their families to enhance health and wellness outcomes. The new program will expand the community of Muslim chaplains by enrolling trusted Muslim community faith leaders.

“As we developed this program,” Mohamed said, “we wanted the trainees to understand the importance of self-care, using mind-body healing practices, so that they can be more effective in caring for themselves and others in this complex system.”

As a certified trainer through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., Mohamed consulted with fellow health and wellness leaders in Minnesota and other states to further develop OPR’s curriculum.

In awarding the $209,000 grant, the Bush Foundation recognized OPR’s Muslim chaplaincy program for its community-driven focus on problem-solving, including the creation of a single program to solve multiple problems faced by the community.

Those solutions include: addressing a shortage of Muslim chaplains in key metropolitan areas across Minnesota; increasing the capacity for faith-based care and support for Muslim youth and their families; and providing career-track jobs for Muslim community leaders, which in turn increases their ability to provide much-needed support for youth and families.

An additional significant benefit of the program is that as Muslim chaplains become a part of Minnesota institutions, they will serve both Muslim and non-Muslim individuals, helping to foster cross-cultural understanding and care.

“As we’ve seen time and again, relationships are what move the dial,” said Awale Osman, community innovation associate, Bush Foundation. “Simply by serving in our Minnesota institutions on a daily basis, these Muslim chaplains will foster new relationships and levels of understanding.”

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