December 4, 2000
grant for teaching,
learning about religious conflict
By Elaine Justice
The religion department has received a three-year grant from the Wabash
Center to develop new ways of teaching and learning about the origins,
meaning and consequences of religious conflict. The $21,000 grant will
be matched by university funds adding up to a total of $50,000 for the
We hope to develop an entirely new model for teaching religion
through its conflicts, said Laurie Patton, associate professor of
religion and department chair.
The grant will be used to support a variety of new initiatives, among
teaching and developing mediation skills for undergraduates and
a new departmental course on religion and conflict offered on
a yearly basis;
support of a religion and conflict fellow; and
workshops for other departments, professional societies and other
universities on teaching about the meaning and end of religious conflict.
The organization behind the grant, the Wabash Center, is located at Wabash
College in Crawfords-ville, Ind. It provides programs for faculty and
makes grants to religion departments and theological schools for projects
that will enhance teaching and learning.
In keeping with Year of Reconciliation, the department will host a University-wide
seminar this spring on religion and conflict, led by David Little of Harvard
University Divinity School, a nationally known expert in the field of
human rights and religion in international affairs.
According to Patton, the initiative on religion and conflict grows directly
out of nationally recognized efforts of faculty across the department,
including Theophus Smiths research on conflict resolution and violence
reduction; Bobbi Pattersons work on violence and the body and with
the new minor in violence studies; David Blumenthals recent writings
on acts of conscience within the Holocaust; Deborah Lipstadts work
on violence, history and Holocaust denial; Eric Reinders research
on iconoclasm and religious conflict; and Wendy Farleys recent publications
on theology and domestic violence, among others.
But good teaching doesnt end with the content itself, Patton said,
adding that religion faculty already are committed to innovative approaches
to teaching, including:
team teaching, which encourages collegiality and an interdisciplinary
approach to religious study; and
a focus on violence reduction, especially the question: Why does
religion sometimes appear to be the cure for social violence,
and yet, at the same time, its cause?
Given these contrasting qualities, religion faculty aim to explore not
only end of religious conflict itself, but the goals inherent in such
conflict, Patton said. Among the questions they will pose: What are the
seeds of the resolution of conflict within each religious tradition? Are
there ways of resolving religious conflict wherein certain ends could
be clarified and met?
While there are some very good comparative works just published
in the field of religion and conflict, Patton said, what weve
discovered in our learning to date is that theres a lot more to