“I’m somewhere in between Alan and Charles in terms of my thinking about this,” said Burnett, a senior history major. “I don’t believe that as a society or as a world today that you’re not necessarily working in the right ways always toward religious cooperation, but I do believe that religious cooperation can be realized.
”And the foundation of that, I feel, comes from education and understanding of different religions. I don’t feel that many countries that have a particular religion as their standpoint, I don’t feel that they take the proper steps to educate the members of their society in order to do that. So I think eventually, who knows when, we can get there.”
For the next 45 minutes, students, faculty and community members shared their insights at the inaugural event.
“Cerise wanted something controversial, and what is more controversial than religion?” said Kasper, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence. “Nothing.”
Tracking down former students, she asked them to participate.
“Given the continual coverage of religion and its role in noncooperation, extremism, violence and positions that various religious groups hold that are exclusive and dogmatic, we wanted to talk about, in the future, was it possible for there to be peace among religions,” Kasper said. “Or even if religions themselves could be an instrument for bringing greater peace and understanding to people in the world.”
In her world-religions course, students are grounded in the five major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Kasper came up with 10 questions to ask her students, and it was more of an engaged conversation than a formal date with students taking pessimistic, hopeful and middle-of-the-road stances.
“We’re going to talk frankly about Islam, Christianity and Judaism and whether people have the capacity to look beyond religious provincialism and really think global in terms of humanity as a whole,” she said.