Faith and Globalisation Hosts International Day, a Time to Deepen Commitment and Create Opportunity
23 Apr 2012
In an increasingly digital world, face to face encounters still reign supreme. This was abundantly clear over the two days of the Faith and Globalisation International Conference, hosted by Yale University earlier this April. In this, our third annual International Day, it was evident that members have gone from being colleagues to collaborators, and even perhaps from acquaintances to friends. This has direct implications for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation's university programme as a whole and for its long-term viability.
Although most people recognise that religion matters, Faith and Globalisation is not (at least, not yet) a recognised field of study. By definition, it incorporates faculty members and students from disparate disciplines and research interests into a common project of exploring the role of religion in the globalised world. Some have expertise in sociology, others in history, still others in theology. And it shouldn't come as a surprise that at first, collaboration between faculty members and students from such varied backgrounds found it slightly awkward to be thrust together in a project of planning and implementing such a massive and far-reaching programme as the Faith and Globalisation Initiative.
Not this year. This year, there was an air of collegiality and of shared commitment that, although perhaps felt by participants in the past, was more clearly conveyed this year than ever before. Faculty members from McGill, Yale, University of Sierra Leone, University of Western Australia, Banaras Hindu University, Peking University, American University of Kosovo, and Tecnológico de Monterrey convened in New Haven to determine new opportunities for shared teaching, student projects and to learn more from one another about their individual areas of expertise.
With seminars focusing on topics such as "Christianity and Finance," "Religion and the Arab Spring," "Religion and Conflict in the Balkans," and "Religion and Healthcare Provision in Africa," the range of expertise both from within the network and from those outside who were interested in participating, made a compelling case for both the contemporary relevance of the study of religion and the capacity of collaboration and communication to smooth out reservations, apprehensions and scepticism – a principle that is at the heart of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
The Faith & Globalisation Initiative is just getting started. But now, perhaps more than ever, it is clear that this journey of bringing the seriousness and complexity of the issues of religion and globalisation to a wider audience, and of supporting and encouraging thoughtful debates and thinking in societies all over the world, will continue for a long time.
Drew Collins, University Programme Manager