Students discuss religion and politics in comparative perspectives.


REWA Students Present International and Interreligious Research at the Hoya Paxa Student Symposium

By: Sarah Stevens

May 16, 2024

The Berkley Center offers a number of ways for students to get involved in our work, including conducting research through our global fellowship programs, taking courses through our Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs (REWA) minor, and participating in experiential learning through the Doyle Engaging Difference Program.

On April 13, the Berkley Center hosted its annual student research symposium, the Hoya Paxa Student Symposium, to showcase the capstone projects from graduating REWA minors.

Nick Scrimenti (C’18), the director of student programs at the Berkley Center, welcomed the students and those attending with a reminder that because “religions are complex, diverse, and ever-changing,” there is always more to study and learn.

A New Way to View the World

The symposium was divided into three sessions: Religion in History and Culture, Faith and Ethics in International Relations, and Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective. During their academic career, a REWA minor must take at least one course in each of these three thematic areas to guide their coursework. They may also focus on a specific geographic region or religious tradition. REWA alumni Jacob Adams (C’23) and Gwyneth Murphy (SFS’23) returned to moderate the panels alongside Nigel Li (G’25), the 2023-2024 graduate teaching assistant for the REWA capstone course.

Annalise Myre (C’24) researched the experiences of Afghan Hazara women and their struggles after being forced to leave Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for her project on "The Sisterhood of the Female Tactical Platoon: Hazara Women Special Operators and the Ethics of Supporting our Afghan Allies."

"I chose to be a REWA minor because I thought it combined the best of what Georgetown and Washington, DC, have to offer: religion, ethics, and world affairs. Getting to know the brave Afghan female soldiers has inspired me to use my voice as a student at Georgetown to develop ethical policy solutions rooted in the values of the REWA minor, and I am so grateful to the program for combining these three areas into a way to view the world."

Religion as an Interdisciplinary Study

Over the three sessions students delved into topics spanning from analyses of Christian purity culture in the United States to Chinese funding of Buddhist structures in the Belt and Road Initiative. These projects highlighted how religion was a main factor in the formulation of foreign policies, domestic politics, and popular movements across the world. This interdisciplinary aspect is a highlight of the REWA minor and encourages students to use religion as a lens to generate new perspectives on modern-day issues.

Nicholas Valin (C’24) reflected on the way this embrace of interdisciplinary inquiry inspired his research on the origins of the current civil war in Myanmar and the genocide against Burmese minority group the Rohingya in his project, “Over-Religionization of the Myanmar Conflict.”

“The unique blend of courses in the REWA minor has allowed me to develop an interdisciplinary worldview and has pushed me to think critically about global conflict and human geography. The capstone project was a valuable experience and pushed me to research an underreported topic. My REWA cohort was also incredibly talented and being able to see and learn from their projects was equally enlightening.”

A Global Mindset Beyond the Hilltop

For graduating capstone students, the Hoya Paxa Symposium is not simply the completion of the REWA minor, but a celebration of the new skills and perspectives they gained during their time at Georgetown University. Eli Hicks (B’24) plans to take these new critical thinking and research skills with him after graduation.

“No matter where your life takes you, the REWA minor forces you to think about solutions to global issues differently than you would before and demonstrates the importance of engaging religious groups to solve our most important problems."

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