Pakistani couple gifts $15 million to the University of Notre Dame
< A Muslim couple hailing from Pakistan announced a $15 million gift to the University of Notre Dame, one of the top Catholic universities, The New York Times reported on Friday.
Rafat and Zoreen Ansari, who have spent over 40 years working as medical doctors and raising their children, have earned a reputation as civic leaders in South Bend, Indiana.
Their donation will create the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement With Religion at University of Notre Dame. The institute will work on deepening knowledge of religion and spread awareness about the traditions and practices of various religions.
“We came as immigrants, and this country has given us so much,” Mrs. Ansari said in an interview ahead of the announcement. “We want to give something back to America, but also to humanity. We want to promote the idea of equality.”
The generous gift was a well thought out decision by the couple. “We’re not billionaires,” Mrs. Ansari, who practices family medicine, said while speaking to New York Times. “We had to think, how is it going to affect us? There were a lot of parts.”
The two doctors, whose youngest child is autistic, have spent thousands of hours and donated over $1 million to nonprofit organizations associated with autism in children.
The couple and their children, who identify as Muslims, began working on a larger gift a year and half ago, when they decided to fund something that would foster a better understanding of religion, including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The family, which believes that all religions should be treated with equal respect, aims at fostering religious harmony through a better understanding of religious beliefs.
“Some of this money is our children’s money,” Mr. Ansari said. “It would have gone to them. But they came to realize this is a legacy for us,” he added while discussing the future inheritance of their three children who were involved in the discussions and planning of the gift.
The gift comes in at a politically charged time when the US and Europe are reconsidering immigration laws for the Muslim community. The gift, which is 18 months in the making, was not extended to make a political statement according to the couple and the university. However, both parties acknowledged that the timing of the announcement could lead people to assign political motivation as a possible reason.
“In the last couple of years, the majority of problems have been created by the misunderstandings among the religions,” said Mr. Ansari, an oncologist and hematologist. “Is this the right time for the announcement? Yes, because there is so much going on.”