Around the Web

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

“Pathways for Interreligious Dialogue in the Twenty-First Century” (Latinovic et al., eds.)

In November, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Pathways for Interreligious Dialogue in the Twenty-First Century” edited by Vladimir Latinovic (University of Tübingen, Germany), Gerard Mannion (Georgetown University), Peter C. Phan (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows:

Without question, inter-religious relations are crucial in the contemporary 9781137507297age. While most dialogue works on past and contemporary matters, this volume takes on the relations among the Abrahamic religions and looks forward, toward the possibility of real and lasting dialogue. The book centers upon inter-faith issues. It identifies problems that stand in the way of fostering healthy dialogues both within particular religious traditions and between faiths. The volume’s contributors strive for a realization of already existing common ground between religions. They engagingly explore how inter-religious dialogue can be re-energized for a new century.

Harris & Nawaz, “Islam and the Future of Tolerance”

In October, Harvard University Press will release “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” by Sam Harris (Project Reason) and Maajid Nawaz (Quilliam). The publisher’s description follows:

In this short book, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz invite you to join an urgently needed conversation: Is Islam a religion of peace or war? Is it amenable to reform? Why do so many Muslims seem drawn to extremism? What do words like Islamismjihadism, and fundamentalism mean in today’s world?

Remarkable for the breadth and depth of its analysis, this dialogue between a famous atheist and a former radical is all the more startling for its decorum. Harris and Nawaz have produced something genuinely new: they engage one of the most polarizing issues of our time—fearlessly and fully—and actually make progress.

Pope Francis’s Remarks on “Social Dialogue in a Context of Religious Freedom”

Pope Francis has issued an Apostolic Exhortation–Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”)–which ranges over many subjects, emphasizing in particular and in many places the obligations of Catholics toward the poor and toward realizing just social, political, and economic arrangements.

In a substantial portion of the Exhortation (beginning at paragraph 182), the Pope discusses the social teaching of the Church and he focuses on two issues: the alleviation of poverty and the Church’s special concern for the poor; and “The Common Good and Peace in Society.” As to the latter, and because they involve issues of religion and public life that we consider here at the Center, here are the Pope’s remarks (footnotes omitted) about the importance of “social dialogue in a context of religious freedom,” which conclude his reflections on the social dimension of the Gospel:

255. The Synod Fathers spoke of the importance of respect for religious freedom, viewed as a fundamental human right. This includes “the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public” A healthy pluralism, one which genuinely respects differences and values them as such, does not entail privatizing religions in an attempt to reduce them to the quiet obscurity of the individual’s conscience or to relegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques. This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism. The respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be arbitrarily imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing majority or ignores the wealth of religious traditions. In the long run, this would feed resentment rather than tolerance and peace.

256. When considering the effect of religion on public life, one must distinguish the different ways in which it is practiced. Intellectuals and serious journalists frequently descend to crude and superficial generalizations in speaking of the shortcomings of religion, and often prove incapable of realizing that not all believers – or religious leaders – are the same. Some politicians take advantage of this confusion to justify acts of discrimination. At other times, contempt is shown for writings which reflect religious convictions, overlooking the fact that religious classics can prove meaningful in every age; they have an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and the heart. This contempt is due to the myopia of a certain rationalism. Is it reasonable and enlightened to dismiss certain writings simply because they arose in a context of religious belief? These writings include principles which are profoundly humanistic and, albeit tinged with religious symbols and teachings, they have a certain value for reason.

257. As believers, we also feel close to those who do not consider themselves part of any religious tradition, yet sincerely seek the truth, goodness and beauty which we believe have their highest expression and source in God. We consider them as precious allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building peaceful coexistence between peoples and in protecting creation. A special place of encounter is offered by new Areopagi such as the Court of the Gentiles, where “believers and non-believers are able to engage in dialogue about fundamental issues of ethics, art and science, and about the search for transcendence”. This too is a path to peace in our troubled world.

Pope Francis, “On Heaven and Earth”

Image Books recently announced it would publish the first English-language edition of On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century by Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the newly elected Pope Francis.  On Heaven and Earth was first published in Latin America and Spain during 2010, and Image Books, a division of Random House, will publish an English-language edition on May 7, 2013.  The publisher’s description follows.

From the man who became Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio shares his thoughts on religion, reason, and the challenges the world faces in the 21st century with Abraham Skorka, a rabbi and biophysicist.

For years Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Argentina, and Rabbi Abraham Skorka were tenacious promoters of interreligious dialogues on faith and reason. They both sought to build bridges among Catholicism, Judaism, and the world at large. On Heaven and Earth, originally published in Argentina in 2010, brings together a series of these conversations where both men talked about various theological and worldly issues, including God, fundamentalism, atheism, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and globalization. From these personal and accessible talks comes a first-hand view of the man who would become pope to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world in March 2013.

Heneghan on Christian-Muslim Relations in the Middle East

This article by Reuters’s Religion Editor Tom Heneghan in Al Arabiya is, quite simply, the best I have read in the popular press on the complicated relationship between Christians and Muslims in the contemporary Middle East. Reporting on a Istanbul conference attended by Christian and Muslim intellectuals, Heneghan explains that the two sides sometimes seemed as if they were “talking about two different places and using divergent meanings for the same words.” For example, Muslim participants spoke with pride about Islam’s history of “tolerance” for Christians. Christian participants were less impressed: for them, historical Muslim “tolerance”connoted a requirement that Christians accept subordination as the price of peaceful coexistence. Christian participants also discounted the importance of formal legal equality, since, even today, social customs in the Middle East often dictate inferiority for Christians. For their part, Christian participants spoke with pride about Christianity’s insistence on separating church and state. But Muslim participants viewed this concept with suspicion, arguing that Islam does not admit such a separation. “In the West, religious liberty emerged when Christianity was weakened,” one Turkish scholar explained. “This does not give Muslims much confidence.” On the eve of the papal visit to Lebanon, a very worthwhile read.

Grob & Roth (eds.), “Encountering the Stranger”

This October, The Washington University Press will publish Encountering the Stranger: A Jewish-Christian-Muslim Trialogue edited by Leonard Grob (Fairleigh Dickinson University) and John K. Roth (Claremont McKenna College). The publisher’s description follows.

In an age when “collisions of faith” among the Abrahamic traditions continue to produce strife and violence that threaten the well-being of individuals and communities worldwide, the contributors to Encountering the Stranger – six Jewish, six Christian, and six Muslim scholars – take responsibility to examine their traditions’ understandings of the stranger, the “other,” and to identify ways to bridge divisions and create greater harmony.

Patel, “Sacred Ground”

From Random House this month, a new book on anti-Muslim prejudice in the United States, Eboo Patel, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America (2012). The publisher’s description follows.

In the decade following the attacks of 9/11, suspicion and animosity toward American Muslims has increased rather than subsided. Alarmist, hateful rhetoric once relegated to the fringes of political discourse has now become frighteningly mainstream, with pundits and politicians routinely invoking the specter of Islam as a menacing, deeply anti-American force.

In Sacred Ground, author and renowned interfaith leader Eboo Patel says this prejudice is not just a problem for Muslims but a challenge to the very idea of America. Patel shows us that Americans from George Washington to Martin Luther King Jr. have been “interfaith leaders,” illustrating how the forces of pluralism in America have time and again defeated the forces of Continue reading

Sharp, “Orthodox Christians and Islam in the Postmodern Age”

In a dialogue between the West and Islam, Orthodox Christians can play a crucial role. Unlike Catholics and Protestants, Orthodox Christians have lived in Muslim societies in numbers for centuries. They suffer discrimination and sometimes outright persecution, but they still comprise the largest Christian communions  in the Middle East today. Orthodox Christians thus occupy a unique position that allows them to help interpret Islam for the West and the West for Islam. Andrew Sharp (Virginia Commonwealth University) has written a new book on the subject, Orthodox Christians in the Postmodern Age (Brill 2012), the latest in Brill’s ongoing series on Christian-Muslim relations. The publisher’s description follows.

The patristic, ecclesiological, and liturgical revival in the Orthodox Church has had a profound impact on world Orthodoxy and the ecumenical movement. Orthodox leaders have also contributed to the movement’s efforts in inter-religious dialogue, especially with Muslims. Yet this book is the first comprehensive attempt to assess an Orthodox ‘position’ on Islam. It explains why, despite being neighbors for centuries, relations between Orthodox Christians and Muslims have become increasingly complex as internal and external forces challenge their ability to understand each other and live in peace. It demonstrates how a growing number of Orthodox scholars and leaders have reframed the discussion on Islam, while endorsing and participating in dialogue with Muslims. It shows how a positive relationship with Muslims (and Islam in a general sense) is an essential aspect of Orthodox Christians’ historical past, present identity, and future aspirations.

Tonight at Fordham Law

I’ll be participating on a panel tonight, “Sharing Sacred Space in Jerusalem,” at Fordham Law School’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work. The panel will address how religious space in Jerusalem has been shared historically, how religious communities have interpreted customary law, and how they have engaged each other to resolve conflict. I’ll be discussing relations among Christians at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City. Details are here. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello.

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