Each year the Berkley Center selects Georgetown juniors who are studying abroad to write blogs on religion, culture, politics, and society in their host countries. This year the RFP collaborated with the Junior Year Abroad Network (JYAN), asking students to comment specifically on issues of religious freedom and religious diversity in their host countries. RFP scholars offered commentary and responses to the students' observations.
now, the pattern is predictable. Jihadists carry out a suicide bombing, a
ritual beheading, an immolation, a murder in a Western city, or some other such
barbarism, and newspapers, magazines, and blogs demand or suggest an Islamic
enlightenment. By “enlightenment,” they generally mean the turn that the West
took centuries ago from faith to reason, from religion to science, from
traditional authority to democracy, and from religious violence to tolerance:
in short, modernity. Before the Enlightenment, European and American Christians
burned witches and heretics and fought and died for obscure otherworldly
beliefs; after the Enlightenment, they did not. And so, the argument goes,
Islamic societies need their own enlightenment to wrest them back to the
Scholars, pundits, and journalists often look to Western history for
analogies to help us understand ongoing dynamics in the Middle East: Jihadi
terrorists are like European
anarchists a century ago; the Arab Spring was like the European
Revolutions of 1848;
the spread of the Islamic State and the deepening Saudi-Iranian rivalry means
that the region is entering its own version of the miserable Thirty
Years’ War (1618-1648); and so on. As Yuen
Foong Khong has written, analogies can be misleading, sometimes tragically
so. However, when used judiciously they can be helpful, and my recently
published book, Confronting
Political Islam: Six Lessons from the West’s Past (Princeton University Press, 2014) is built around several
such analogies. One particularly telling comparison concerns the prospects for
Islamic democracy in the Middle East.
Last summer, the Religious Freedom Project offered dissertation fellowships for students exploring the sources, development, and
consequences of religious freedom. The project supported five fellows in
exploring the relationship
between religious liberty and other fundamental freedoms; its importance for
democracy; and/or its role in social and economic development, international
diplomacy, and countering violent religious extremism. Cornerstone asks the fellowship winners
to share about their research and findings.
Related ׀ The Religious Freedom Project is now receiving applications for its Graduate Summer Research Fellowship for summer 2016. More information on the fellowship and its application can be found here.
As the Middle East enters its sixth year of
unrelenting turmoil, this past weekend witnessed
an ominous escalation of sectarian tensions. It began with Saudi Arabia’s execution on Friday of Shi’ite leader
Sheikh Nimr al Nimr, followed by Iran’s retaliatory attacks on Saudi diplomatic
properties, and then a war of words and the termination of diplomatic relations
between the region’s paramount Sunni and Shi'a nations.
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae, Cornerstone is running a two-part series over the next few weeks. This week Cornerstone focuses on the application of Dignitatis: How successfully have its principles been defended and advanced by Church leaders such as Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis? What are the major challenges to Dignitatis in the world today, particularly in the United States, Western Europe, and Muslim-majority societies? Is there any potential application of Dignitatis in the Muslim-majority world? Is such a teaching possible within any of the traditions of Islam?
The Religious Freedom Project, together with the Center for Civil and Human Rights at Notre Dame, also celebrated this anniversary by recently sponsoring a conference in Rome from December 10-12, 2015, called "Under Caesar's Sword." Read a recap of the conference by RFP Associate Scholar Daniel Philpott here.
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae, Cornerstone is running a two-part series over the next few weeks. This week Cornerstone asks its authors to address the question of how to interpret and define Dignitatis: What is the core teaching of the document as it relates to religious freedom? To what extent should Dignitatis be read as a declaration on individual freedom, the freedom of religious communities, or both? How does this teaching relate to, and develop, earlier teaching by the Catholic Church on religious freedom? To what extent have contemporary interpretations of Dignitatis focused too much on freedom from coercion (a negative freedom), and not enough on man's duty (and therefore his right) to seek the truth (a positive freedom)?
The Religious Freedom Project, together with the Center for Civil and Human Rights at Notre Dame, is also sponsoring a conference in Rome from December 10-12, 2015, called "Under Caesar's Sword," which, in addition to discussing the persecution of Christians in today's world, will also be celebrating the anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae.
Religion is bad.
certainly recent headlines—from terrorist attacks perpetrated by radical
Islamists in Paris and San Bernardino to the strange brew of warped Christian
fundamentalism that appeared to motivate alleged shooter Robert
Dear at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs—feeds the idea that
religion is a force for ill in the world. But in “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason,”
Sam Harris not only asserts that the “greatest problem confronting
civilization” is religious extremism, he further waxes that it’s also “the
larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith
EDITOR'S NOTE: RFP Associate Scholar Karrie Koesel is a member of the "Under Caesar's Sword" research team. This piece is a reflection from her fieldwork for this project. Dr. Koesel will be presenting her findings in Rome on December 12 as part of the "Under Caesar's Sword" international conference from December 10-12, 2015.
the height of the Cold War Russia was frequently depicted in the West as a
country ruled by godless communists—a brutal regime that set out to eradicate
religion and thus, one that also lacked a strong moral compass. These same
charges are again resurfacing many years later, but this time Russia is
directing the charges at the West. Over the past several years, Russian leaders
have played up its moral superiority and defense of traditional values, while
openly criticizing the West as amoral and devoid of spiritual values.
In the wake
of yet another terrorist attack on European soil—followed by threats against
Americans in Washington, DC, and the revelation that one of the suicide
bombers in Paris entered the European Union by posing as a Syrian refugee—many
Americans and Europeans have expressed concern about accepting refugees fleeing ISIS-controlled
regions, most of whom are Muslim, for fear of compromising national
security. In response, some politicians—both in the United States and Europe—have suggested favoring or even accepting
only Christians seeking refuge, while others have called for an outright ban on
accepting refugees. Cornerstone asks: Can Western democracies enact
reasonable security measures while still retaining robust protections for
members of minority religions seeking refuge? If so, how? Is there a
danger that governments will enact illiberal policies in response
to the fight against ISIS and the ensuing migrant crisis? What kind of a
threat might such policies pose to religious freedom in the West?