In 2006, MIT was one of five institutions to receive a three-year federal grant to develop model interfaith dialogue programs. This was the beginning of MIT’s Addir Fellows Program. Addir––which means “bridge” in Ancient Sumerian––aims to build bridges between people with different religious beliefs, practices, traditions, and cultures.
Approximately 25 students of different faiths are selected as Addir Fellows each year. Fellows meet regularly over the course of the year to participate in a stimulating environment that encourages dialogue, openness, and understanding. The heart of the program is a series of ongoing weekly small group dialogues. During these gatherings, participants share their personal stories which lead to discussions that cover a wide range of topics, including faith, prayer, culture, belief, difference, the role of women in religion, Jesus, the prophets, the principles of Islam, Judaic law, Eastern religious practice and many more. Fellows also attend monthly dinners and lectures (open to the MIT community) and two off-campus mini-retreats.
Through the weekly meetings, Fellows gain a profound understanding and awareness of not only what others believe, but also the reasons for and depth of their personal beliefs. Holding an Addir Fellowship adds significant value to the educational experience. Students leave the program with deeper self-awareness and with leadership skills crucial for our diverse global community. They gain increased appreciation and empathy for the beliefs of others; skills that provide the opportunity to transform the ways in which people with deeply rooted differences can work together toward common goals.