Arts / Faith and Humanities

Where Faith and Social Action Meet

Written by Mike Thee

September 26, 2016

Chapel of St. Ignatius in the Fall

The School of Theology and Ministry launches the Center for Religious Wisdom.

The new Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs is now open at the School of Theology and Ministry and has its inaugural director. The center offers a unique approach to bringing faith and social action into the very heart of a theological school's mission. 

"The center is devoted to exploring the contributions religious wisdom makes in understanding and responding to the world's most pressing social problems," says Dean Mark Markuly. "Religious scholars, leaders and practitioners will look for ways in which religious wisdom and the resources of faith communities can lend assistance in the analysis, diagnosis and community responses needed to address complex societal problems."

Manuel Mejido, PhD, a former United Nations official, is the center's director. He will help the school's faculty integrate the work of the Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs into the curriculum of its six graduate degree programs and community education efforts. 

"The  Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs  will explore the best in faith-based and spiritually informed thinking about some of the major global issues causing human suffering, as well as the most effective social action flowing from that thinking," Mejido says. 

Manuel Mejido, Director of the Center for Religious Wisdom and World AffairsMejido (right) has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels in theology, social science and development studies programs in the U.S., Chile and Switzerland, while contributing scholarship in the areas of contextual theology, the sociology of religion and social philosophy. Most recently, his work has focused on the ethical dimensions of social policy and development, with an emphasis on empowering the poor and vulnerable, and protecting the planet. For the past four years prior to joining Seattle U, Mejido worked for the United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia & the Pacific in Bangkok, where he led the development of a UN online advocacy platform to combat poverty and inequality.

"Dr. Mejido's work across the globe embodies the multi-dimensional spirit of the center," says Markuly. "He has deep experience in many cultural contexts of bridging the academic study of issues with on-the-ground social action and advocacy for the creation of more just and humane governmental policies.

"He has lived the delicate balance of a critically reflective faith committed to justice and social action, which is a hallmark of what we are trying to do with this new center and all of the degrees at the School of Theology and Ministry." 

The center will offer Seattle University students an invaluable resource for cultivating their own vision and understanding of the role a socially engaged faith can have on public life and for the common good. It will enhance the school's already established contextual education program, which has students working all year in social service and counseling agencies, hospitals, prisons, non-governmental organizations with humanitarian missions and a host of congregational settings.

Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, says "Now is the perfect time for the  Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs , which builds on all the School of Theology and Ministry has done to connect authentic spirituality with justice for our world. I am moved to imagine our future collaboration for connecting religious wisdom with a world that is both hurting and filled with potential." 

Over the course of the next year, the center will become more integrated into the academic mission of the school and the university. Staff members Lisa Gustaveson and Hannah Hunthausen have transitioned from their work with the Faith & Family Homelessness Project into new roles as program staff for the Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs.    

The center is supported by funding from private donors and organizations in the region and nationwide, including the Henry Luce and Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Shemanski Testementary Trust, Seattle Foundation and the Isacc N. Alhadeff Foundation.