Each roundtable offers student delegates the opportunity, in a series of roundtable discussions, to analyze and develop policy recommendations for the United States within the topic of their selected roundtable. When registering, delegates select one roundtable that they will participate in. Roundtables are conducted by qualified academic and professional leaders. These discussions will culminate with an end-of-conference group presentation where delegates will present their policy recommendations.
It has become evident in recent years that religious actors can play a crucial role in violent conflict contexts, either generating instability or in support of stability. Equally evident is the lack of clarity or nuance on the part of our institutions of state and non-governmental organizations on how precisely to constructively engage these actors.
Who speaks for a faith tradition; how does religious identity cross-over with other identities; how can religion be addressed through secular institutions; how do we deal with internal conflicts within faith traditions; how do faith-based organizations impact a context where religion is present and highly-relevant; and what to do with "friendly" influential religious actors that are engaged in destructive patterns of behavior? are all questions that might be confounding effective conflict mitigation programs.
This roundtable will deal with these questions and others in preparing students to understand how religion functions in conflict spaces, how to develop nuanced engagements, and how to do so while avoiding classic pitfalls and risks associated with this unique aspect of human identity and communities.
This roundtable examines the under-appreciated factor of trust in restoring and sustaining peace. We consider case studies internationally and in U.S. communities where trust has been critical in diffusing potential conflicts and restoring peace. But how is trust built? Special attention is given to the role of sustained dialogue, including inter-religious dialogue. The strategies and effectiveness of certain faith-based NGOs are examined. Particular attention is given to Hope in the Cities, a U.S. NGO whose work of racial reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia, over more than twenty years has important lessons for peace-building in international conflicts. We also analyze how a mediation center in Kaduna, Nigeria, has used experience of profound personal reconciliation across religious divides to inspire trust in several African conflicts. At the same time, the limitations of trust-building as a strategy for peace are candidly assessed.
Reforming the way Muslims practice their faith and interpret their scripture has been a pressing demand for many in the Muslim world. Achieving such reform has profound implications that transcend the confines of abstract academic debate and resonate in the everyday lives of Muslims at large. Historically, scholars who have attempted this formidable task have faced tremendous challenges. This roundtable will examine the profound impact of technology on the way Muslims are accessing various interpretations and engaging theological texts previously available exclusively to Islamic clergy. We will also show how young Muslims are becoming active participants in reforming the understanding of their faith.
In recent years, diplomats and peace practitioners have acknowledged the limits of past peace efforts that marginalized the religious sector and have developed significant programs engaging religious ideas, actors, and institutions in efforts to advance sustainable peace. At the same time, with the passage of UN Security Resolution 1325 calling for the equal participation of women in peacebuilding, the international community acknowledged the limits of past peace efforts that marginalized women. Despite the advances in understanding and engagement of religious actors and women in peacebuilding, the experiences of religious women peacebuilders is little known. A good deal of existing religious peacebuilding scholarship has focused on exemplary male religious figures or failed to address with depth gender dynamics in (and implications of) religious peacebuilding. Meanwhile, a good deal of the scholarship on gender, conflict, and peace has focused little on religious dynamics hampering or propelling women’s full participation in peacebuilding (particularly religious dynamics propelling women into peace work). This seminar will examine the obstacles and opportunities that women religious peacebuilders face as they navigate both the complex conflicts they are seeking to resolve and the power dynamics in the institutions and societies they must deal with in order to accomplish their goals. Read more...
Religious beliefs, practices, institutions and leaders may impact development in countless –and sometimes contradictory—ways. On the one hand, religion may relieve constraints on development such as the lack of hope or the lack of aspirations, which may limit the poor’s ability to harness available opportunities and resources to improve their lives. On the other hand, certain religious actors may obstruct development because they associate it with liberal western institutions and ideologies.
There is significant potential for religious perspectives to provide an expansive and realistic notion of the human person and human development. Denis Goulet warns that if modern economics continues to yield an understanding of human development that ignores the role of religion, governments and development institutions will persist in acting as “one-eyed giants” who “analyze, prescribe, and act as if man could live by bread alone, as if human destiny could be stripped to its material dimensions alone” (Goulet, 1980). Goulet’s explicitly religious approach to development was empirically confirmed in one of the most influential and largest cross-cultural poverty assessments ever conducted by the Word Bank. Read more...
As religion has become increasingly “deprivatized,” political scientists remain divided on whether religion helps, hinders, or has no effect upon the democratization process. Moreover, scholars debate the mechanisms through which religion affects democratization. Some argue that particular religious traditions have elements that may or may not be conducive to individual or group support of democratization, while others focus on religion-state relations as the core determinant of religion’s relationship with democracy and democratization. In this roundtable, we will examine the various ways religion interacts with democratization, and ask how policy mechanisms might be used to encourage a constructive role for religious individuals, groups, and institutions in the democratization processes of states around the world.
There is a certain transformative, transcendent power inherent in faith and a certain fragility. It is through faith in the unseen, in a higher power, that humans have found shared senses of meaning and order out of chaos. It is within the lofty cathedrals, in synagogues and small south pacific huts that religion has created systems of meaning, of joy and of quiet internal peace in the face of sorrow and despair. Yet that is not the only story of faith and religion. In times of direct challenge to an internal order, in times of anomie and tribulation, faith becomes less a means to an end and more an object that must be protected and preserved. Some of the most horrific episodes of violence and genocide have been committed in the name of faith.
Religion is often pinpointed as the source of many of the sociopolitical conflicts in the world. But can it also be part of the solution? This roundtable looks at the role grassroots religious peacebuilders can play in resolving both community and international conflicts. The roundtable chair, Chad Ford, has spent the last 15 years working in the field with religious leaders in Northern Ireland and the Middle East to find ways, doctrinally, culturally and practically to counteract the growing threat of fundamentalism. Together delegates will explore theoretical, doctrinal and practical ways of using religious faith as a tool in peacebuilding. Read more...
Religious persecution, in both breadth and brutality, is a growing problem across the globe. Governments are often the chief culprits in targeting religious believers and institutions, but more recent trends suggest that social hostilities – violence or harassment by non-governmental actors – have increased at a particularly alarming rate. The Religious Persecution and Religious Liberty Roundtable will examine the key indicators of persecution, explore the root causes of both government restriction of and social hostilities toward religion, and assess a range of responses to the problem of persecution. We will give special attention to myriad efforts to use public policy and other mechanisms to spread religious liberty protections to suffering believers.