World leaders to ask "Why God?" at Notre Dame Forum Sept. 22

Author: Julie Hail Flory


A panel of world leaders will convene at the University of Notre Dame on Sept. 22 (Thursday) in a forum that provides an academic cornerstone to the inauguration of Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., as the University’s 17th president.

Titled “Why God? Understanding Religion and Enacting Faith in a Plural World,” the forum will take place at2 theJoyceCenterarena.

Panelists for the forum will include Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; John C. Danforth, former U.S. senator from Missouri and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Naomi Chazan, professor of political science and African studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a former member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and a three-decade participant in the Israeli-Palestine peace process; and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder and chief executive officer of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and imam of New York Citys largest mosque.

Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw will serve as moderator for the discussion, which will include participation by selected Notre Dame faculty and students. This event and others for the inauguration will be streamed from the University’s Web site and can be watched live at .

The forum, which will be a centerpiece of the events celebrating Father Jenkins’ inauguration, will focus on the following questions:

  • Why God? – In our globalized and religiously plural world, why should we consider religious and faith-based perspectives when addressing issues of general public concern?
  • Understanding religion – How do we account for the increasing role of religion in 21 st century societies, including those facing fundamental questions of human rights, economic development and violent conflict?
  • Enacting faith – What do people of faith, including young intellectuals educated at Notre Dame, have to contribute to the solution of the world’s pressing problems?

The panelists will first address each question individually and then discuss the issues in a structured conversation during the first hour of the forum. In the second hour, invited faculty and students will offer comments and ask questions of the panelists.

A set of readings on the themes of religious diversity and tolerance has been selected to give Notre Dame students and faculty the opportunity to explore these issues in-depth during discussions to be held in the Notre Dame residence halls prior to and following the forum. The primary text is “When Faiths Collide,” a reflection on religious pluralism and conflict by Martin E. Marty, professor emeritus of the history of Christianity at theUniversityofChicago.

Cardinal Rodríguez has served as president of the Council of Latin American Bishops and as a spokesman for theVaticanwith the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the issue ofThird Worlddebt. He is one of the authors of “Ecclesia inAmerica,” the document published by Pope John Paul II in 1999 based on the Special Synod forAmerica. He is fluent in seven languages and holds a doctorate in theology from thePontificalLateranUniversityinRomeas well as a degree in clinical psychology and psychotherapy fromLeopoldFranzUniversityinInnsbruck,Austria. He has taught chemistry, physics, music and theology at various colleges inEl Salvador,HondurasandGuatemala. Cardinal Rodríguez was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Notre Dame in 2003, the same year he received the Notre Dame-Coca-Cola Award for Distinguished Public Service inLatin Americafrom the University’s Kellogg Institute.

Danforth served in the Senate from 1976 to 1994 and as ambassador to the U.N. from 2004 until his retirement earlier this year. He was appointed by President Bush in 2001 as special envoy for peace toSudan, and was appointed in 1991 by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno as special counsel to investigate the federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound inWaco,Texas. An ordained Episcopal priest, he officiated the funeral services of President Reagan last year. Prior to his election to the Senate, Danforth served asMissouri’s attorney general for two terms from 1968 to 1976. A graduate ofPrincetonUniversity, he also earned a bachelor’s degree fromYaleDivinitySchooland his law degree fromYaleLawSchool.

Chazan is a former deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament and an outspoken and active proponent of Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives. A native ofJerusalem, where she now resides, Chazan served three terms in the Knesset representing the Meretz party. Chazan has founded and serves on the board of a variety of human rights, women’s rights, and peace organizations and has held visiting professorships atHarvardUniversityand the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is author or editor of eight books on comparative politics, the Arab-Israel conflict and women in politics.

Imam Feisal leads Masjid Al-Farah, a mosque in Manhattan. He has dedicated his life to building bridges between Muslims and the West and is a leader in the effort to build religious pluralism and integrate Islam into modern American society. He founded ASMA in 1997 as the first American organization committed to bringing Muslims and non-Muslims together through programs in culture, art, academia and current affairs. Imam Feisal has been a tireless advocate for an ecumenical solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is the architect of the Cordoba Initiative, an interreligious blueprint for improving relations between America and the Muslim world and pursuing Middle East peace.

The Notre Dame Forum is an annual event established by Father Jenkins to bring world leaders to campus to discuss their experiences and offer advice to Notre Dame students preparing to enter the public debate and shape the professional world.

Video streaming for inauguration events

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