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About the Center

Mission

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs seeks a more just and peaceful world by deepening knowledge and solving problems at the intersection of religion and global affairs through research, teaching, and engaging multiple publics. 

Two premises guide the center’s work: that a comprehensive examination of religion and norms is critical to address complex global challenges, and that the open engagement of religious and cultural traditions with one another can promote peace. To this end, the center engages students, scholars, policymakers, and practitioners in analysis of and dialogue on critical issues in order to increase the public understanding of religion.

Our Research and Programs

Religion in Diplomacy

Religion plays a critical role in a number of international challenges, including conflict and peacebuilding, the administration of education and global health services, and the current refugee crisis, to name but a few, yet its importance goes largely unrecognized or misunderstood in broader governmental and NGO-related diplomatic work. Berkley Center research is focused on demonstrating the centrality of religious belief and religious actors in nearly all aspects of human activity, and thus the importance of considering religion in the management of international relations. Specifically, the center focuses on issues of social and economic development; local, national, and transnational policies and responses regarding the ongoing migration and refugee crisis; and the causes and consequences of diverging conceptions of religious freedom throughout the world. Ultimately, our research in these fields demonstrates that in order to engage effectively in diplomatic efforts and to find joint solutions to global challenges, public and private officials must engage religion in a serious, integrated, and comprehensive way.

Globalization and Religion

For decades, the view that the world would grow increasingly secular dominated the field of sociology of religion, yet we have seen a persistence and resurgence of religion around the globe. The Berkley Center devotes much of its efforts to understanding how the process of globalization intersects with the resurgence of public religion and also how religion itself, particularly Catholicism and its Jesuit Order, has shaped—and been shaped by—the very process of globalization. Additionally, in recognizing that a globalized world means increased contact between members of different cultures and faiths, the Berkley Center promotes interreligious and intercultural dialogue through a number of programs. In particular, the Doyle Engaging Difference Program—a campus-wide collaboration between the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS)—is designed to strengthen Georgetown University’s core commitment to tolerance and diversity and to enhance global awareness of the challenges and opportunities of an era of increasing interconnectedness. Doyle Seminars, the Junior Year Abroad Network, and the Doyle Undergraduate Fellows Program allow students and faculty to explore intercultural and interreligious issues through teaching, learning, and research.

Religion, Culture, and Society

Religion fundamentally shapes the way individuals see the world, their role in society, and the roles of others in their communities. For some, it inspires the literary imagination, as is well documented in Berkley Center Senior Fellow Paul Elie’s Faith and Culture Lecture Series. Since 2007, Elie has led conversations with prominent cultural figures, including author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, filmmaker Martin Scorsese, and poet Billy Collins. In these discussions, Elie explores with guests the relationship between their artistic process and their religious belief and upbringing. For others, religion can impact and change their lives in unexpected and fundamental ways, as shown in our American Pilgrimage Project, which chronicles the role religious beliefs play at crucial moments in everyday American’s lives. Religion also influences the way societies view issues of social justice, gender roles and relationships, and identity, which the Berkley Center investigates through research projects, events, online discussions, and student programming.

Religion, Norms, and Ethics

How do religion and values influence global political, cultural, and legal systems in transnational and comparative perspective? This is one of the primary streams of inquiry at the Berkley Center. On issues ranging from nuclear proliferation, to climate change, to migration and refugees, we investigate how morality and religion influence policy decisions and approaches of multinational institutions to shared crises. Projects on political theology analyze both historical and contemporary understandings of political engagement across Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, approaching political theologies not merely as a set of theoretical concepts, but as religious beliefs and principles that ground political action within contemporary geopolitical struggles. Law and religion is another major focus of the center, which we approach both by looking at issues of U.S. constitutional law related to free exercise, establishment, and the accommodation of diverse religious practices and international religious freedom, and also by addressing fundamental theoretical questions about the way that political and legal systems are legitimated in an increasingly pluralistic world.

Church and the World

The Catholic Church has developed teachings on justice and peace that address global challenges of economic and social development, democracy and human rights, conflict resolution, and interreligious dialogue. The Berkley Center, in support of Georgetown’s larger Catholic mission and identity, studies the positions and influence of the Church through a number of programs. In particular, the Church’s stances on nuclear proliferation and climate change are the subject of faculty research efforts. Our involvement in the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network helps foster scholarship and dialogue throughout different Christian churches and between Christianity and other faith communities, as well as between the church and secular societies. The center has also led projects focused specifically on Jesuits and their historical contributions in the areas of dialogue, education, and justice, and our student-centered Education and Social Justice Project pairs students with Jesuit educational intuitions abroad in order for them to research how these places of learning address the global challenge of poverty through education.

Our History

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs was created within the Office of the President in 2006. Its founding took place at the confluence of two historical streams: the resurgence of religion in world affairs, brought home dramatically in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Georgetown’s more than two centuries-long tradition of academic excellence in service to the world. In 2004, faculty and administrators began planning efforts for an initiative that would address the nexus of religion and global affairs at an institutional level, and in 2006, a generous gift from board member William Berkley allowed for the creation of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.