Saturday, July 16, 2005

Report from Trip to Chautauqua

Hi, I'm back from my latest trip. I went to Chautauqua, an amazing place, where I helped lead some discussions about the theme of the week: The Law in Religion and Society (in the Abrahamic Traditions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam). My friends and I attended many excellent lectures and learned a lot. Our facilitating discussions helped people of diverse faith traditions have a chance to talk about what they were learning, and share with each other about how their own faith traditions regard the relationship between law and religion.

There is much I could say, but I'll start with the most dramatic news first. One of the lectures we all were most looking forward to was a lecture by noted Islamic Scholar Zaki Badawi, who is principal of the Muslim College in London and formerly the director of the Islamic Cultural Centre and chief imam of the London Central Mosque. More information about him can be found from this page (week 3). But he was denied access to the U.S. It is amazing that such a speaker, coming to such an institution, be denied access! Here are some of the news reports about this event:

From the Associated Press (via Washington Post):

British Muslim Leader Denied U.S. Entry

From the London Times:

Eminent Briton refused entry

From the BBC:

BBC NEWS Americas UK Muslim leader barred from US

We so urgently need good dialogue across the faith traditions, and Chautauqua is such an important setting for such excellent education, but our week was diminished by our not being able to hear from someone so important, who himself is so concerned to foster understanding across faith traditions!

So, why did this happen?

In other respects, the week was just amazing. I'll probably have to write about it in installments. For now I'll just say that this was my first visit to Chautauqua, and I am profoundly impressed by how the Department of Religion there is trying to build peace and understanding within and across faith traditions. This felt like a very important week, not only for me and all who were there, but for the world as a whole. Building better understanding among even smallish numbers of people can sometimes make a huge difference in the long run.

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