This year’s summer got off to an exciting start as over twenty scholars and professionals working in the field of interreligious relations gathered in Lampeter, Wales to present and deliberate on the theme of ‘Practices of Justice in a Multi-Faith context’.
Organised by the Professional Doctorate in Interfaith Studies Programme at the UWSTD, this year’s conference drew attendance from both up and coming scholars in various academic disciplines including a number of UWTSD Harmony doctoral scholars as well as a number of prominent names in the field. Some of the doctoral students were particularly gratified to have the opportunity to share their research at various poster sessions.
As with the 2018 edition, the conference, which is now in its fourth edition, began with a panel discussion session which comprised of religious leaders of the world religions including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and the Bahai Faith.
Representatives shared on how the sacred scriptures of their Faith communities conceptualise the notion of justice – in all its various forms and how these understandings inform practical engagements of adherents of these faiths.
Dr Tim Baylor, Lecturer in Theology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David; Professor Saleem Kidwai, honorary professor of practice, UWTSD; Venerable Shengmiao, director of the Academy of Sinology, UWTSD and Mr Vivian Bartlett of the Bahai Faith in Wales were among the panellists.
The Conference’s keynote address was given by Professor Paul Hedges, an alumnus of UWTSD and currently Associate Professor of Interreligious Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His paper, which was well-received, was titled ‘Decolonial Perspectives on Justice and the Practice of Interreligious Dialogue’.
The paper was an informed and insightful appropriation of a postcolonial frame of analysis in problematizing certain dominant discourses in interreligious dialogue and drawing particular attention to the necessity for both epistemic and curricular reforms in the Western academy.
There were other similarly stimulating sessions: Professor Anna King of the University of Winchester gave a presentation on the conflict resolution work of an international NGO (‘Religions for Peace’) in Myanmar; Revd Dr Phil Rawlings, director of the Centre for the study of Christianity and Islam at Nazarene Theological College, Manchester shared the results of his research on employing the ‘Musalaha Six-stage Cycle of Reconciliation’ as a model of authentic interfaith dialogue; Dr Shabbir Akhtar, of the Oxford Centre for Christian-Muslim studies presented on certain political and philosophical aspects of Islam in a multireligious context and Dr Mark Owen, director Centre for Religion, Reconciliation and Peace, University of Winchester offered reflections on aspects of justice and religion in the contemporary world context. In all, the two-day conference was a great time for students and scholars of the fast-growing field interreligious studies to deepen their understanding of how the ethical dimensions of religions – in this instance their concern for justice – informs and is itself informed by a variety of socio-political forces in today’s globalizing world.