28-year old Amjad Tarsin from Michigan, U.S., enjoys photography, traveling – and chaplaincy, Canadian’s online news site, the Star reported.
Recently hired by the University of Toronto, Canada, Tarsin aims to be someone students can relate to. While his ambition is seemingly selfless, his parents weren’t happy when he dropped out in the middle of pursuing a law degree to take a holier path, which began at the inter-religious Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.
“It was a really tense time,” Tarsin said upon breaking the news to his parents. “They said: ‘What are you doing? You are ruining your life!’” he said. However, surprise was followed by understanding, and the young chaplain proved himself by landing a position at Canada’s biggest university, which hosts an estimated 5,000 Muslim students.
“Muslim youth want someone who has been there and can understand what it is like to be in their shoes,” said Tarsin. “It is important to understand the people that you are serving.”
Muslim chaplaincy has been previously occupied by volunteer imams from the vicinity. The local Muslim community earlier this year took measures to establish a full-time paid job, raising more than $70,000, according to the head of the chaplaincy program board, Ruqayyah Ahdab.
“The goal is to serve all Muslims, and beyond. This is not a call to a particular way. This is to serve as many people as possible and inspire them in whatever makes them a better person,” she said.
Ahdab also said that previous instances prompted the need for someone to provide spiritual guidance on campus for Muslim students who were facing all kinds of difficulties in their lives.
“There is no subject that is taboo,” she said. “We want people to feel comfortable talking about things, and asking about things they might normally not feel comfortable talking about.”
Enter Tarsin, who was chosen from 20 male and female candidates who had a range of backgrounds from community leader to prison chaplain.
Tarsin will begin his job next month. Among his plans are setting up religious study groups, leading Friday prayers, boost interfaith activities, aside providing on-campus counseling. The first semester of the program will be predominantly hosted in the St. George campus downtown, and expand to sister campuses over the course of time.