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College of Arts and Sciences

Boston College Symposia on Interreligious Dialogue

Interreligious Dialogue and the Cultural Shaping of Religions

September 22-24, 2011

The global mobility of religions has raised a series of practical and theoretical questions regarding the mutual shaping of religions and cultures, and the role of interreligious dialogue in the process of cultural and religious change. As religions negotiate the challenges of adapting to ever new cultural environments, they inevitably encounter the traces (linguistic, conceptual, ritual) which previous religions have left on a particular culture. The process of inculturation thus generally leads to some form of implicit or explicit dialogue between religions. While in the past the reality of religious borrowing tended to be downplayed or ignored, the present atmosphere of openness allows for a more conscious process of learning from the religion or religions which have shaped a particular culture, and from the ways in which they have dealt with particular cultural challenges.

The reality of religious globalization also raises fundamental questions about the relationship between religions and cultures. Religions tend to enter new cultures shaped by the culture in which they arose, or which they previously encountered. To which extent might this pose limits on their adaptability to new cultural contexts? And to what extent are cultures so defined by particular religions that they are limited in their receptivity to other religions?

At this symposium, we will focus on different case studies, both past and present, in so far as they shed light on the broader questions of the intersection between interreligious dialogue and cultural adaptation and change.  

Organizing Committee

Catherine Cornille, John Makransky, Ruth Langer, James Morris, and Roberto Goizueta.



Peter Phan (Georgetown University)


Susan Abraham (Harvard University)
Kwok Pui-Lan (Episcopal Divinity School)

View video from this event




Jonathan Sarna (Brandeis University)


Robert Schreiter (Catholic Theological Union)
James Heisig (Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture)


Marcia Hermansen (Loyola, Chicago)
Fareed Munir (Siena College)


Swami Tyagananda
Frank Korom (Boston University)


Thomas Kasulis (Ohio State University)
David McMahan (Franklin and Marshall)


John Berthrong (Boston University)



Note: Papers from this event have been published in Interreligious Dialogue and Cultural Change, Catherine Cornille and Stephanie Corigliano, eds. (Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2011)


Photos from the 2011 event

Peter Phan
Keynote speaker Peter Phan
Respondent Susan Abraham
Respondent Susan Abraham
Respondent Kwok Pui-Lan
Respondent Kwok Pui-Lan