Established in 2017 and inaugurated in 2018, the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion is dedicated to studying, learning from, and collaborating with religious communities worldwide. A vital part of the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, the Ansari Institute embraces wide-ranging work, including research, teaching, outreach, and interaction with religious communities, faith and civic leaders, academics and journalists, and the general public.
Together, these efforts enable the Ansari Institute to contribute to the Keough School’s mission to advance integral human development, a holistic model of human flourishing articulated in Catholic social teaching and resonant in multiple religious, humanistic, and philosophical traditions worldwide. Whereas “development” can be understood in purely economic or material terms along a single path, “integral” is rooted in an awareness that effective and ethical approaches to development also require attention to the specific religious, cultural, and historical dimensions of a given society.
This comprehensive approach to the demands of human dignity, in turn, demands engaging with and learning from various disciplines, sectors, faith communities, and, in a deliberate way, with “all people of good will.” A core value of the Ansari Institute is narrative empathy, defined as “the sharing of feeling and perspective-taking induced by reading, viewing, hearing, or imagining narratives of another’s situation and condition.” As such, the institute invites immersive engagement with the variety of religious and cultural worlds that humans inhabit.
Accordingly, the institute embraces diverse faith traditions, partners respectfully with local and global actors, and collaborates across disciplines in order to foster deliberation, offer training in culturally appropriate modes of dialogue, and implement transformative educational programs. It also helps to generate ideas about how religious actors and institutions can enhance their capacity to fulfill their respective missions and advance human flourishing. The institute enhances its effectiveness by partnering with universities, NGOs, and other civil society actors, as well as governments and intergovernmental organizations.