Generation of new imams preach peace
Updated: 2016-05-13 08:27
By Cui Jia(China Daily Europe)
China will support the education of religious professionals to ensure they are fully prepared to carry out their duties and build the trust of believers, President Xi Jinping said at a religious affairs conference in Beijing last month.
As a result, the next generation of religious professionals and leaders, such as those studying at the China Islamic Institute in Beijing, will play an important role in guiding their congregations and ensuring that they follow the path of peace.
The young graduates' informal approach and their modern take on religious faith have seen them became increasingly popular among believers in mosques around China. To meet the rising demand for young imams, the school has decided to raise student numbers in September, the start of the academic year.
Students read the Quran during a class at the China Islamic Institute, the country's top academy for Quranic studies, in Beijing. Photos by Wang Zhuangfei / China Daily
After four years at China's leading center for Islamic studies, the graduates can recite the Quran in flawless, unaccented Arabic. Meanwhile, their youth means they understand how to use social media platforms to spread religious knowledge and answer questions about issues - both domestic and international - that concern Muslims. Younger people find it easier to communicate with religious leaders of similar age who share many of the same interests.
People often find it hard to reconcile Ma Jiacheng's youth with his status as the imam, or religious leader, of the biggest mosque in North China. They expect to meet a grave, elderly man, not a smiling 26-year-old who left college only last year.
Ma is among a number of recently appointed young imams taking a new approach to religious teaching by combining their understanding of Islam with new ideas, in the hope of generating and reinforcing positive images of China's Muslims.
He first visited the Doudian Mosque in Beijing's Fangshan district in 2013, when he was a student at the China Islamic Institute. Now, he is entering his ninth month as the imam of the center, which features a prayer hall big enough to hold 2,000 worshippers.
He was appointed to the post after he graduated last year, replacing the previous incumbent, who retired. Five of his classmates are now imams at mosques around China.