TOWN MEETINGS TO OFFER CAMPUS AND COMMUNITY FORUMS FOR DISCUSSING RELIGION, VIOLENCE AND SUFFERING

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Nationally known ethicists and religious scholars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam will discuss religion and violence as well as ways of coping with suffering and evil during Town Meetings November 11 and 12 sponsored by The King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, in cooperation with the Fayetteville Ministerial Association. The public is invited to attend the meetings, which will offer audience members a chance to share their views with participants.

The first meeting, "How to Cope with Suffering and Evil," will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, November 11 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 224 North East, as part of the McMichaels Lecture Series. The on-campus meeting will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. on Monday, November 12, at Giffels Auditorium in Old Main. Mayor Dan Coody will offer introductory remarks at St. Paul’s, while University of Arkansas Provost Bob Smith and Fulbright Dean Randall Woods will open the on-campus discussion.

Participants include Alon Goshen Gottstein, Director of the Elijah School for the Study of Wisdom in World Religions in Jerusalem; Michael Sells, the Emily Baugh and John Gest Professor of Comparative Religions at Haverford College; Shabbir Mansuri, Director of the Council on Islamic Education and reviewer for several major textbook publishers in world history, social sciences, and religion; Tobias Winright, instructor in religion and philosophy at Simpson College and author of numerous publications on the ethics of war and the conflict in Northern Ireland; and Sulayman Nyang, Professor of African Studies at Howard University, a noted scholar of African and Islamic Diaspora communities. Professor Nyang will attend the November 10 meeting only.

"The world has become too integrated to hide behind the ramparts of exclusivism," said Vincent Cornell, director of the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies in Fulbright College. "Theologians of all religions have begun to realize that if God had wanted all of humanity to share a single belief, it would have happened by now. We must move beyond cultural intolerance and religious bigotry. At these meetings, we’ll look at the deeper issues that unite the three monotheistic faiths but at the same time challenge those faiths as well." Professor Cornell will take the place of Sulayman Nyang at the November 11 meeting.

In the coming years, the King Fahd Center plans to offer courses in all of the religions of the Middle East: not only Islam and western Christianity, but also Judaism and Eastern Christianity. A center affiliate, the Aga Khan Humanities Project in Central Asia, is one of the most progressive programs of its kind in the world. Sponsored by the Aga Khan Charitable Trust and George Soros’ Open Society Institute, it operates in Tajikistan, Kirghizstan, and Kazakhstan, training university faculty and potential government leaders in philosophy, literature, the arts, and multicultural studies. Another center affiliate, the Elijah School in Jerusalem, operates in partnership with UNESCO and McGill University and offers a variety of interfaith programs. In partnership with the Fulbright Institute of International Relations and other international studies programs, the King Fahd Center has contributed significantly to the goal of making the University of Arkansas a major presence in the field of international education.

"Now more than ever, in this time of crisis and military conflict, Arkansas needs a Middle East resource center. Today, the University has a center for Middle East and Islamic Studies fully comparable to other centers at better-known state universities, such as UCLA, Berkeley, the University of Washington, Michigan, Arizona, and the University of Texas. The King Fahd Center responds daily to the needs of Arkansans for accurate and informed analyses, and provides experts on the Middle East and the Islamic world who are prepared to help answer the 'whys?’ of current crises," said Dean Randall Woods.

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