This week I had the great pleasure of attending a remarkable event. I was invited to contribute to an annual event that takes place here in Alsace called:
Assises Interreligieuses “les religions en dialogue : un atout pour la société (Religions in Dialogue: a benefit for society).” Here’s the view from my seat in the second row:
This is an annual event sponsored by the Région Grand-Est here in Strasbourg. It was a remarkable gathering of scholars, politicians, business people, and leaders from the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches here in Alsace–a great opportunity to contribute to the international discussion around the problem of religion and violence.
The keynote speaker was Mr. Eric Vinson(www.franceculture.fr/personne-eric-vinson.html), who is a leading expert on religion and culture here in France. He hosts several series on the channel France info and develops projects to increase religious understanding and diffuse the radicalization process of French youth. Eric and I shared ideas at length after the event and are discussing some future collaboration.
After Mr. Vinson’s presentation, the group broke up into small sessions to discuss and offer proposals that were collected by representatives of the Region Grand-Est and I was not a little proud to help moderate the conversation in French! Yikes. But it was great.
Mr. Vinson gave a stimulating presentation that covered a range of social, religious and political issues facing France today. He stressed, among other things, the need to re-integrate religious and theological education into the general system of education here in France as well as the importance of frank dialogue about the way the way religion can serve both as a cause of violence, but even more so as the source of culture and unity among people.
For my part, I acknowledged that we tend to speak of “religion” in general and categorical terms in order to avoid stereotyping and over-generalization in our politics. But I suggested nonetheless that such a tendency leads to unhelpful misunderstanding as well. My suggestion was that we need to learn (in the media, in politics, in the classroom) to speak rather in extremely specific terms about the specific theologies and traditions of argument that promote violent behavior in order both to identify them and undermine their sense of authority to represent a given theological community. (In a nutshell, anyway).
This topic was a great warm-up for my presentation in Warsaw, Poland this month on the question of “Monotheism and Violence.” You can probably imagine the direction I’m headed….
At any rate, thank you to the Rotary Club once again for your support and help. Please do contact me anytime for update, questions and conversation.
Salue à tous de Strasbourg!
PS. This is one of several events happening in Alsace over the next few weeks. I will be attending more than one (I hope!) so look for future updates.