Despite the Lampeter campus being closed due to COVID 19, the university was able to host its fifth Interfaith Colloquium in July, organised by UWTSD’s Professional Doctorate in Interfaith Studies programme. Although the conference took place online, and therefore differed inevitably from the usual two-day event in Lampeter, it was greatly insightful and enjoyable for all in attendance. In fact, the conference being held online meant that it drew a global audience, with attendees joining from Italy, India, Brazil and China (as well as across the U.K). The conference provided the opportunity for up-and-coming scholars in varying academic disciplines, from universities across the world, to engage with prominent names in the field of interfaith study.
The online nature of the event meant that the attendees were able to benefit from sessions given by speakers who were also joining from various countries around the world. The opening session was a discussion regarding the link between inter-religious study and colonialism with presentations given by Prof. Paul Hedges (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), Dr Fu Yu (Zhejiang University City College, China) and Dr Emmanuel Nathan (Australian Catholic University, Australia). This session, and the perspectives given by each contributor, was a timely reminder of the importance of not removing the subject of interfaith from its colonial history, but rather seeking to acknowledge the importance of diverse societies within inter-religious engagement.
The two days were comprised of other similarly stimulating sessions: Prof. Bettina Schmidt (UWTSD) was joined by two of UWTSD’s Harmony doctoral students to discuss the need for interfaith engagement and study in the context of war and systemic violence; Dr Anderson Jeremiah (Lancaster University, UK) gave a presentation regarding the links between race, caste and religion, while Dr Amanullah De Sondy (University College Cork, Ireland) facilitated a conversation surrounding the tension between having a ‘faithful religious identity’ and the current value that Western society is increasingly placing upon political correctness, or ‘wokeness’ and Dr De Sondy labelled it.
Further sessions regarding the practicalities of interfaith study were also hugely beneficial to the attendees, as Dr Jennifer Eggert (Humanitarian Academy for Development, UK) spoke of the personal cost of interfaith engagement and Rev. Mike Waltner (KAICIID, Austria) alerted us to the lack of religious and interreligious engagement in Global Citizenship Education. The conference was brought to a close by UWTSD’s four KESS students (Tanja Mancinelli, Richard Stanton, Jamilla Hekmoun and Joanna Herbert-James) who each presented their research, linking Christianity/Islam to mental health/environmental ethics. The recordings of each session are available to watch on this page.
In all, the Interfaith Colloquium proved to be a valuable opportunity for scholars and students to engage with each other and deepen their understanding of the ways in which various socio-political contexts are continually affecting the ever-growing field of interfaith study.