the International Summer School on Religion and Public Life

Adam Seligman is a major social theorist. For the past decade, he and colleagues have been organizing an annual International Summer School on Religion and Public Life. They convene educators, clergy, NGO leaders, and others from diverse religious traditions in particular places that are challenging sites for thinking about religious differences. Upcoming examples are in Rwanda/Uganda and the Balkans. The goal is not to intervene in the places where they meet, but to influence the participants, who convene there from around the world.

One could generally categorize this effort as a form of interfaith dialogue, but I think the distinctive features are: 1) very strong intellectual components, including serious consideration of theological issues; 2) a general stance that religious identities are central and not easily compatible with each other; 3) and an interest in challenging and provoking people while also trying to build a community. By the way, secular people–including atheists–participate; they just don’t predominate.

I’ve been working in the field of dialogue and deliberation (“D&D”) in the US for 25 years and have board memberships or working ties with organizations like the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums, Everyday Democracy, AmericaSPEAKS, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the┬áPublic Conversations Project, and the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network. I recommend that my colleagues in those organizations follow the International Summer School on Religion and Public Life as a distinctive and challenging model.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.