Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion announces inaugural events

The new Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion at the University of Notre Dame will officially launch with private and public events this month.


On Oct. 25, religion historian Thomas Tweed, founding director of the Ansari Institute, will deliver the inaugural keynote address titled “Engaging Religion” at 5 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center for International Studies auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.


On Oct. 26, the Ansari Institute will host the Engaging Religion Conference from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 1030, Jenkins Nanovic Halls. Three panels of international experts will address current topics related to global religion: “Forced Migration: How Religion Causes and Eases Displacement,” “Religious Misrepresentation: How to Improve Representations in Education and the Media” and “Sustainable Habitats: How Religions Can Help Repair Unsustainable Environments.”


The conference is free and open to the public. Registration is required at


In addition to the public events, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, will lead a private multi-faith prayer service on Oct. 25 in Jenkins Nanovic Halls and bless the institute at its office suite on the fourth floor.


The Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, is dedicated to the study of religion and global affairs and serves as a center of public deliberation and education through research, teaching, outreach and interaction with religious communities worldwide. Institute faculty and global partners will explore how diverse religious traditions can address a variety of contemporary problems, including migration and refugees, climate change and environmental degradation, poverty and economic disparity, and conflict and interreligious strife.

The institute was established through a gift from philanthropists Rafat and Zoreen Ansari, who are both physicians. It is the eighth institute housed within the Keough School of Global Affairs.


“For the majority of the world’s population, the practices and beliefs of a local religious community shape individual lives and social norms. Religions engage people where they live, affecting their sensibilities and attitudes toward migrants, the poor, politics, health, the family and more,” notes Scott Appleby, Marilyn Keough Dean of the Keough School of Global Affairs.

“The local variants of religious engagement are not well-understood, but they have cumulative influence over national and global trends. The Ansari Institute will shed clarifying light on these local practices and work with and alongside religious communities to amplify their contributions to the common good.”

Appleby is delighted that the Ansari Institute will strengthen the contributions of the Keough School in global affairs by helping Notre Dame students, professors and other stakeholders gain deep understanding about individual religions and, more importantly, the intersections of religions. “Not least,” he added, “we are excited that the local community has taken a special interest in this institute, and we look forward to building friendships and partnering with such communities around the world.”


In a 2017 New York Times interview, Zoreen Ansari gave this explanation for the family’s generous gift: “We came as immigrants, and this country has given us so much. We want to give something back to America, but also to humanity. We want to promote the idea of equality.”


Founded in 2014, the Donald R. Keough School of Global Affairs advances integral human development through research, policy and practice; transformative educational programs; and partnerships for global engagement.


For more information on the Ansari Institute, contact Thomas Tweed at

Originally published by Chloe Mccotter at on October 17, 2018.