Religion in Contemporary America: Church, State, and Society

Date: September 14–October 12, 2002

Event Recap

In a program funded by the public diplomacy branch of the U.S. Department of State, the Boisi Center hosted a month long Fulbright seminar this fall titled “Religion in Contemporary America: Church, State and Society.” The program brought 13 Muslim scholars from Muslim majority countries to Boston College for an intellectually rigorous program examining the political, social, and cultural roles that religion plays in America. In addition, the program sought to illuminate the ways in which religious tolerance can be fostered in a multi-faith society. From September 14th through October 12th, these scholars, largely from the Middle East and South Asian countries, along with two from Africa and one from Turkey, lived at the Walker Center for Global Mission and Ecumenical Exchange, and met at the Boisi Center for lectures, discussions, and social events under the direction of Alan Wolfe and Patricia Chang.

The thirteen scholars, who were chosen by the U.S. Consulates in their countries, included: N.P. Hafiz Mohamad from India, Mun’im Ahmad Sirry from Indonesia, Mehmet Pacaci from Turkey, Barakat Hasan from the Palestinian Authority, Adnan Mahmoud Assaf from Jordan, Kamarul Mat Teh from Malaysia, Fareed Mohammed Hadi Abdulqader from Bahrain, Md. Akhtaruzzaman from Bangladesh, Ahmed Mohsen Al-Dawoody from Egypt, Munib-ur Rehman from Pakistan, Saida Yahya-Othman from Tanzania, Ibrahim Mu’azzam Maibushira from Nigeria, and Carmen A. Abubakar from the Philippines. These scholars were selected for their scholarly interest in religion, and for their ability to translate what they learned in the US to audiences in their home countries. While at the Boisi Center, the group heard from a number of prominent speakers from the faculty of Boston College and from other institutions in Boston and across the country.

The program focused on four themes: the separation of church and state, the relationship between democracy and religion, the problems of tolerance in a pluralist society, and the relationship between religion and policymaking. The program also included a trip to Los Angeles where the scholars stayed at the Fuller Theological Seminary, the largest evangelical seminary in the US, and had an opportunity to meet with various religious groups on the West Coast.