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ODU to Co-host Forum: 'Religious Engagement in the 21st Century: Implications for Allies and Global Security'

Old Dominion University will co-host the 2011 Global Leadership Forum on religious engagement this month with the Washington-based Institute for Global Engagement. Both the keynote address the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 20, and two presentations the following morning are free and open to the public.

Co-sponsored by the U.S. Army Chaplaincy Center for World Religions, the two-day forum, "Religious Engagement in the 21st Century: Implications for Allies and Global Security," will bring together civilian and military leaders to consider the implications of religious freedoms on U.S. foreign policy and global security. The conference is supported by the Aimee and Frank Batten Jr. Foundation.

"Recent conflicts and post-conflict stabilization efforts have driven home the message that questions of faith are a vital part of people's vision of how they want to live," said Regina Karp, director of ODU's international studies program.

In response to the increasing awareness that religion does and will play a role in theater engagement plans, the Pentagon published Joint Publication 1.05, "Religious Affairs in Joint Operations," in November 2009. The next month, a theme issue of the journal The Review of Faith & International Affairs focused on the present and future of the chaplaincy in the U.S. military. While informal discussions continue to take place, especially within the chaplain communities, there has not been a strategic and ongoing conversation that also includes the U.S. interagency and NATO allies.

For Chris Seiple, president of the Institute for Global Engagement, research in this area is important. "Our military chaplains are the soft edge of America's hard power. They embody religious freedom on the front lines - practicing their own and providing for others - while being asked to advise on and do religious engagement in complicated places. Unfortunately, this topic has not been thoroughly researched in the academy and we are grateful that ODU is leading the way."

As part of the two-day series of programs at Old Dominion, the Institute for Global Engagement, home to The Review of Faith & International Affairs, and ODU, the only American university to have an academic partnership with NATO, are partnering to host a one-day, invitation-only experts' workshop on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

The forum's opening keynote address, "What We Wished We Knew Then and Where We Need to Go Now: Reflections on Religion, Religious Freedom and U.S. Foreign Policy," is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 20 in the North Cafeteria of Webb Center, with a reception beginning at 6 p.m. It will take the form of a conversation by three Virginians who helped establish the Office of International Religious Freedom at the U.S. State Department. They will reflect on how religious freedom is in keeping with Virginian and American identity, as well as U.S. national security.

The presenters are:

• Robert Seiple, former ambassador-at large for International Religious Freedom;

• Thomas Farr, former director of the Office for International Religious Freedom; and

• Milan Sturgis, a former Navy chaplain.

In addition to the keynote address on Sept. 20, two sessions on Sept. 21 are open to the public, with breakfast beginning at 8 a.m. They will take place in the Ted Constant Convocation Center's Big Blue Room. The first session includes breakfast. The sessions are as follows:

• 9:15-10:15 a.m. - "Lessons from the Balkans: What Is It that We Should Already Know?" E. Germain, policy advisor, French MOD; and Tim Bedsole, U.S. Army chaplain

• 10:30-11:30 a.m. - "Lessons from Afghanistan: What Are We Learning?" - David Hunsicker, policy advisor, Culture in the Middle East and Asia, USAID; Maj. David Fielder, British Royal Marines; and David West, retired U.S. Army chaplain.

"As scholars and practitioners we need to be better informed about how to engage communities of different faiths, how to bring our own values to bear effectively, and how to resolve situations where religion, ethnicity and power are intricately linked. This conference is a unique opportunity to tackle these complex issues and we are fortunate to have assembled a group of military and civilian experts that bring practical experience to the conversation," said Karp.

Those planning to attend the keynote address on Sept. 20 or any of the morning sessions on Sept. 21 should RSVP by Thursday, Sept. 15, to www.odu.edu/ao/univevents or 757-683-5759.

For more information about the forum visit the Institute for Global Engagement website at www.globalengage.org.

This article was posted on: September 20, 2011

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