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:
- 1 A comprehensive examination of religion and norms is critical to address complex global challenges.
- 2 The open engagement of religious and cultural traditions with one another can promote peace.
Impact At a Glance
Center faculty and a wide array of external scholars and practitioners reflected on COVID-19's immediate and future effects on global societies and structures.
In the face of the unfolding pandemic, faculty quickly adapted their research agendas to consider emerging challenges at the intersection of religion and public health.
Center fellows engaged with organizations and media outlets around the globe to share their expertise and reflections on the global pandemic.
Berkley Forum Series on the Implications of COVID-19 for:
Vulnerable Populations - What lessons can we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic on structural challenges facing vulnerable populations? How can religious ethics inform approaches to the elderly and people with disabilities?
Social Welfare - What weaknesses in the American social welfare system have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic? How can faith leaders mobilize action on policies for the common good?
Environmental Health - What does the COVID-19 pandemic teach us about the intersection of religious ethics, climate change, and global health? How might coronavirus-related behavior change figure into long-term action on global climate change?
José Casanova: Profile of a Global Scholar
José Casanova: Profile of a Global Scholar Slider
Humanity in Crisis
Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J., has applied Christian social ethics to some of the most pressing issues over the last 40 years. Encounter, a key theme in Jesuit thought and practice, has shaped his timely work on a wide-ranging set of issues, from economic reform and human rights to the refugee crisis.
In his 2019 book, Humanity in Crisis: Ethical and Religious Response to Refugees, Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J., examines the causes of and presents ethical solutions to the global refugee crisis responsible for seeing the greatest number of forced migrants and internally displaced persons in modern history.
Toward the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Subsequent protests against police brutality directed at communities of color have erupted in cities and towns around the world. In response to the ongoing fight for racial justice and reform, the center has compiled its resources on how religion intersects with issues of race in terms of its role in supporting anti-racist movements and agendas and in terms of its complicity in perpetuating racist systems.
In the immediate aftermath of George Floyd's murder, the Berkley Forum asked writers to consider how religion contributes—both positively and negatively—to the movement for racial justice and related issues including police violence and mass incarceration; what role pastoral care, religious ethics, and theology might play in shaping religious activism on racial justice; and what concrete steps faith leaders and religious practitioners can take to fight racism in American society.
In fall 2019, the Berkley Center co-sponsored an event featuring Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, author of Dead Man Walking and River of Fire, who discussed her work fighting the death penalty and advocating for criminal justice reform. In the spring, the Berkley Center hosted events on the Shakespeare Theatre Company's groundbreaking staging of James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, obligations of the faithful to fight policy brutality, and listening to Black clergy in the wake of George Floyd's murder.
From July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, the center hosted a total of 57 events, ranging from intimate book talks, to multi-day conferences, to virtual events.
After moving to a fully virtual environment in March 2020, the center continued to put on online events throughout the spring and early summer.
Our event videos from throughout the center's history continued to garner attention with a notable spike in views since the onset of the pandemic.
Event Highlights Video Player
June 2020 saw the kickoff of the Global Religious and Secular Dynamics Discussion Series, featuring online public conversations on our contemporary global condition between renowned sociologist José Casanova, a Berkley Center senior fellow, and prominent scholars and public intellectuals. The inaugural discussion welcomed philosopher Charles Taylor for a conversation about his foundational work A Secular Age (2007) and the divergent religious dynamics that can coexist within our global secular age.
In this conversation, faith leaders reflected on how George Floyd’s death has influenced their communities. They were joined by religious scholars to discuss the ways in which local police departments interact with religious communities, as well as how religious communities might get involved in demilitarizing and training police.
This Berkley Center Lecture, featuring Father J. Bryan Hehir, used a comparative analysis of three pontificates—Pius XII (1939 - 1958), John Paul II (1978 - 2005), and Pope Francis (2013 - current)—to assess the style and substance of Vatican diplomacy today.
The Catholic Church has been mired in numerous scandals regarding sexual abuse and cover-ups around the globe over the course of many decades, with countless stories and situations still unknown to the public. This event featured lay voices in this current sexual abuse tragedy that is affecting both diocesan and religious communities.
This conference reflects the work of the Global Refugee and Migration Project, a collaborative 18-month initiative of Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of International Migration and its Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. The event offered an opportunity to reflect on the work accomplished over the course of the initiative, as well as the current state and future directions of global refugee policy. This panel features scholars talking about the intersection of religion and the refugee crisis.
What do American Christian right actors stand to gain from exporting the culture wars? Four renowned international experts discussed this question on a panel held within the context of a wider two-day workshop on "Russia in the Global Culture Wars."
The Berkley Center celebrated several faculty affiliates winning prestigious awards during the 2019-2020 academic year, including Katherine Marshall, who was awarded the Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award, and Jocelyne Cesari, who received the Religion and International Studies Distinguished Scholar Award.
The Berkley Center’s primary activities revolve around a core set of faculty members whose research agendas drive all other center activities, including its teaching, student programs, and public outreach. Our faculty’s programs do not merely manifest in the form of publications and a few public events, but connect to a vast set of global networks that influence and shape academia, national and international policymaking, and public opinion.
Center senior fellows authored pieces placed in the New Yorker, Sojourners, America, and the Conversation, among other outlets.
Senior fellows published several research articles and book chapters in edited volumes.
Center fellows David Hollenbach and Peter Mandaville each released a monograph this past year.
The center released over a dozen reports from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.
Religion and the Nation
Religion and the Nation Slider
The Politicization of Religion in Global Perspective project, led by Berkley Center Senior Fellow Jocelyne Cesari, explores the role of religion in nation-building around the world. An initial phase of the project explored how the modern nation-state shaped the development of political Islam, culminating in the book What is Political Islam? (2018). Current research expands these initial findings to analyze the politicization of other religious traditions in various national and international contexts, with a focus on five country case studies: China, India, Russia, Turkey, and Syria. Ongoing efforts include a new event series, launched in spring 2020, that brings Cesari together with regional experts to discuss religion and nationalism in the five country case studies.
The Geopolitics of Religious Soft Power (GRSP) project, which is led by Berkley Center Senior Research Fellow Peter Mandaville, in collaboration with colleagues at the Brookings Institution, and made possible with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, represents a multi-year, cross-disciplinary effort to systematically study the use of religion in foreign affairs. In December 2019, the project hosted authors of the forthcoming volume Wahhabism and the World, which focuses on better understanding Saudi Arabia’s impact on Islam around the world. During summer 2020, the project team will be managing the production of a series of policy briefs focused on the use of religious soft power in Russia, China, Turkey, India, and Iran.
Additional Research Highlights
Additional Research Highlights Slider
Walsh School of Foreign Service, Executive Director of the World Faiths Development Dialogue
Katherine Marshall is currently leading a three-year project that takes an in-depth look at issues of education, gender, and youth and climate change in Bangladesh. Read her recently released study of the Bangladeshi education system, and discover her emerging work on COVID-19.
Walsh School of Foreign Service
Shaun Casey's work focuses on religion in U.S. diplomacy and domestic politics. He has led center efforts to understand the role of Christianity in American politics and is working on a book chronicling his time at the Department of State, tentatively titled Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom: Religion in U.S. Diplomacy.
Senior Research Fellow
Department of Government
Terrence L. Johnson continues to research African-American political thought, ethics, American religions, and the role of religion in public life, most recently contributing a chapter titled "Exploring Race, Religion, and Slavery at the Museum of the Bible" to the edited volume The Museum of the Bible: A Critical Introduction (Rowman & Littlefield, October 2019).
Paul Elie writes literary and social criticism for publications ranging from the New Yorker to Commonweal, researching and commenting on issues of racism in the life and work of Flannery O'Connor, the history of the environmental movement, and the Church's developing position on nuclear disarmament. Elie also directs the American Pilgrimage Project, which has just been moved to a new web platform, and liaises with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture.
Senior Research Fellow
Department of Theology and Religious Studies
Julia Watts Belser's current research examines the critical nexus of climate change, disability, and environmental justice, in conversation with disability arts, activism, and embodied ethics. Read her op-ed titled "Disabled People Cannot Be 'Expected Losses' in the Climate Crisis" or her contribution to the Berkley Forum on the issue of COVID-19 and vulnerable populations.
Department of Government and Law Center
Michael Kessler's research and writing focus on theology; philosophical and religious ethics; and social, political, and legal theory. He is currently editing the Oxford Handbook of Political Theology together with Shaun Casey, and he authored an article on justice in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Religious Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, August 2020).
Senior Research Fellow
Rev. Gerard McGlone, S.J., focuses on the clerical sexual abuse crisis with particular emphasis on how, as an institution, the Catholic Church and member organizations can better evaluate and train clergy to prevent abuse from happening. This year he received a grant from Fordham University for the project "Taking Responsibility: Jesuit Educational Institutions Confront the Causes and Legacy of Sexual Abuse" and organized the event "Confronting the Church's Crisis."
Senior Research Fellow
Department of Theology and Religious Studies
Erin Cline specializes in comparative philosophy and religion, with a special focus on classical Confucian and Daoist ethical, political, and religious thought. This year she published her first trade book, Little Sprouts and the Dao of Parenting: Ancient Chinese Philosophy and the Art of Raising Mindful, Resilient, and Compassionate Kids (Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc., April 2020).
Senior Research Fellow
Department of Theology and Religious Studies
William Werpehowski's areas of scholarly interest include Christian theological ethics, Catholic social thought, and the ethics of war and peace. Werpehowski currently serves as the chair of the Department of Theology and participated in the Berkley Center conference "The Pope and the Bomb: Beyond Deterrence."
The Berkley Center offers a number of ways for students to get involved with the work of the center, including participating in fellowship programs, taking courses and conducting research through the Doyle Engaging Difference Program, and working as student assistants.
Our approach to student programs at the Berkley Center is grounded in the Jesuit value of caring for the whole person (cura personalis), a central tenet of the Georgetown University education. Our programs are animated by the center's mission of bringing together scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and students to seek a more just and peaceful world by deepening knowledge and solving problems at the intersection of religion and global affairs.
Our student offerings are also deeply informed by the Doyle Engaging Difference Program’s mission to equip students and faculty with the skills necessary to thoughtfully engage matters of difference in integrated spaces of teaching and learning, in and outside the classroom. As campus collaborators on the Doyle Program, the Berkley Center seeks to implement this vision through guided academic and professional mentorship and extended learning opportunities that transcend the classroom, helping students connect their Georgetown experiences to the wider campus and to local and global communities.
Upon completing any Berkley Center student program, the participant should be able to:
Show evidence of global awareness, particularly interreligious and intercultural competencies, by engaging in discourse and practice on matters of political, religious, social, economic, and racial differences.
Demonstrate analytical skills and the ability to clearly articulate complex issues in research and digital scholarship.
Illustrate interdisciplinary knowledge integration and intellectual curiosity in traditional and experiential learning spaces.
A Decade of Success: A Look at 10 Years of Center Student Programs
Georgetown faculty have taught over 900 Georgetown undergraduates in Doyle Seminars since the program started 10 years ago.
Faculty have taught seminars on topics ranging from race and politics to film to prison reform.
50 Georgetown students have graduated with a Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs minor or certificate since the start of the program.
Hundreds of students have participated in this study abroad reflection program.
Participating JYAN students have written reflections from countries across six continents.
Students participating in this program have conducted in-depth studies of social justice programs around the world.
Doyle Seminars Slider
Amelia Uelmen’s Doyle Seminar, Religion and the Work of a Lawyer, explored the ways in which practitioners think about legal questions and their own work as lawyers as related to their religious or spiritual outlook. This year, Professor Uelmen brought together over 100 alumni, faculty, and students to launch an alumni network for the seminar at a luncheon held during the Georgetown Law reunion weekend in October 2019.
Reflections on Doyle Seminars
Reflections on Doyle Seminars Slider
In many ways, [my Doyle Seminar] was the most fulfilling teaching experience of my career so far, as every class we ended up having such meaningful discussions and debates about immigration, refugees, displacement, xenophobia and more. At another level, meeting the other Doyle instructors earlier in the semester was formative for my own teaching: I built connections with two professors working on the issue of migration/immigration in different fields, and even co-led a joint class excursion to a museum, which turned out to be a very meaningful moment of cross-pollination between our classes—and the basis for future scholarly collaboration.
Evan Jewell, Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Classics
I think [Professor Uelmen's Doyle Seminar] has been so valuable in allowing us to really dig deep within our own reflection and then when we encounter things that we don’t necessarily agree with, learning how to interact with that and communicate with differing perspectives or values.
Alexander Afnan (L'21)
Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs Minor
Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs Minor Video Player
The Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs (REWA) program offers a minor for Georgetown Main Campus undergraduate students administered through the Berkley Center. The REWA minor gives students an opportunity to explore the role of faith and values across topic areas including international relations, comparative politics, and history and cultures. The Virtual Spring 2020 REWA Student Symposium ran from April 20-24 and culminated in a virtual discussion between students, faculty, and staff.
Junior Year Abroad Network (JYAN) 2019-2020
In 2019-2020, 21 students participated in the JYAN program. They witnessed and wrote about issues ranging from political unrest in Hong Kong and Chile, to the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read about their experiences by clicking on each highlighted country.
JYAN Student Reflections
JYAN Student Reflections Slider
"JYAN is a wonderful initiative—I found my abroad experiences more meaningful through guided discussions and sought camaraderie with fellow cohort members. I am so grateful for the community support given throughout the process."
"Since arriving in Berlin, my awareness of my Polish heritage, as well as the ways it influences my identity and thus contours my social interactions and my understanding of the world around me, has experienced a multi-level metamorphosis."
Cape Town, South Africa
"Existing as Black in South Africa requires grappling with an anger that is not my own... My Blackness links me to this space, ties my foreign body to the history of South Africa, and allows me to feel this history on multiple levels. While my ancestral rage may occasionally overwhelm me, it is a lens through which I can complexify and more deeply engage with my experiences in South Africa."
"[A]chieving some semblance of unity—whether in Singapore, the United States, or even on a global scale—lies in...personal shifts. It demands that we acknowledge our individual shortcomings and gaps in understanding and strive to respect and embrace the appearances, perspectives, and experiences of those who are different from us."
Pulitzer Center International Reporting Collaboration
Pulitzer Center International Reporting Collaboration Slider
Rhya Evans (NHS’22) has been selected as the Berkley Center-Pulitzer Center international reporting fellow for summer 2020. Her project will explore the role of religion and culture in menstruation practices among Rohingya girls and women in Bangladesh.
As part of the Berkley Center's partnership with the Pulitzer Center, we jointly host two events per year featuring Pulitzer Center journalists. In fall 2019, journalist and Pulitzer grantee Richard Weiss, whose reporting project focuses on families of color in the Ferguson area, spoke on a panel with Teddy Washington, who was racially profiled by police in an incident that made national news.
Education and Social Justice Project: Past, Present, and Future
This story chronicles how, over the past 10 years, the Education and Social Justice Project (ESJ) has impacted students and global communities by providing 38 talented Georgetown undergraduates with summer research fellowships to explore issues at the intersection of education and society.
This report reflects on the tenth year of the Education and Social Justice Project, which provided three Georgetown University students with fellowships, allowing them to travel to Ireland, Thailand, and Malawi to conduct in-depth examinations of innovative educational initiatives, with a focus on the work of Jesuit institutions.
This brochure offers a vision for the future of ESJ, which entails renaming the program; expanding it to additional fields beyond education, including migrant and refugee care, global health, and environmental stewardship; increasing the number of annual participants; and increasing the academic rigor through course credits and incorporating digital scholarship design.
ESJ Testimonials Slider
I think my ESJ experience was without a doubt, an experience of personal growth, challenge, and perspective-building.
The ESJ Project definitely gave me the confidence to continue doing research. Now, I work at an NGO focused on community development in Cape Town, South Africa.
It is hard to emphasize enough how much the experience impacted me. I came into Georgetown not knowing that I cared about research, yet ESJ helped me discover this passion for research to effect social change.
The ESJ Project allowed me to see those broader Jesuit connections and really hit home to the point that I returned to campus and decided to go through the Catholic confirmation process.
I am currently a doctoral student in sociology at UCLA. ESJ was a formative step in my journey towards a career as a social scientist and prepared me to produce the quality of research expected at a top department.
Hear from Our Student Assistants
Hear from Our Student Assistants Slider
Alero Oyinlola (C'22)
Student Assistant, American Pilgrimage Project
Current Position: Facebook Intern
"I became a student assistant as a freshman; my skills and experience were quite limited. In the past two years, serving as a student assistant has allowed me to develop skills in project management, including: research, outreach, and stakeholder engagement. Further, the center’s staff and fellows have provided me with opportunities for professional development and growth. This summer, I will be interning at Facebook and I am convinced that securing the internship is largely attributable to skills acquired at the Berkley Center."
Micah Musser (C'19)
Student Assistant, Faculty Research
Current Position: Research Analyst, Georgetown's Center for Security and Emerging Technology
"As someone who plans to pursue a career in the world of academia and think tanks, working at the Berkley Center provided me with invaluable research experience at a major research institution. I was able to interact with respected academics, develop my editing abilities, and learn about religion and international relations, all while helping the center in its mission of promoting research that can advance a more just and equitable world."
Elizabeth Pankova (C'20)
Student Assistant, Communications
Current Position: Intern, "The New Republic" magazine
"As someone pursuing a career in media, the Berkley Center was a perfect working and learning environment. I was able participate in so many aspects of the center’s media presence, from writing articles to helping manage the website. But more than that, working at the Berkley Center allowed me to interact with fascinating research, speakers, and faculty with whom I never would have crossed paths with otherwise."