RPP Colloquium 2016–17

Launched by Dean David N. Hempton of HDS in 2014, this monthly public series convenes a cross-disciplinary RPP Working Group of faculty, experts, graduate students, and alumni from across Harvard’s Schools and the local area to explore topics and cases in religions and the practice of peace. A diverse array of scholars, leaders, and religious peacebuilders are invited to present and engage with the RPP Working Group and general audience.

Below are videos of the RPP Colloquium Series from 2016-17.

The RPP Colloquium was organized in 2016-17 with generous support from The Reverend Karen Vickers Budney, MDiv '91, and Mr. Albert J. Budney, Jr., MBA '74. It also received generous support from the El-Hibri Foundation in 2016 and from the Once Here Foundation in 2017.

Join us for upcoming public sessions of the RPP Colloquium. Visit our Upcoming Events page for details and to RSVP.

Speakers talk at ColloquiumRPP Colloquium and Pluralism Project 25th Anniversary Event: Speaking the Sikh Experience: Visible Difference in the Crucible of Change
Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pluralism Project 25th Anniversary Event with RPP featured Sarbpreet Singh, playwright, commentator, poet, author, social justice and interfaith activist, founder and director of the Gurmat Sangeet Project, a non-profit dedicated to preserving traditional Sikh music, and author of the play Kultar’s Mime, and J. Mehr Kaur, director of theatre productions such as Kultar’s Mime, Sara Ruhl’s Orlando, Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes, SEVEN – a documentary play, and a multi-media musical inspired by the #blacklivesmatter movement. Mr. Singh and Ms. Kaur were joined by actors Benjamin Gutman, Sydney Grant, Monica Giordano, and Michelle Finston, who performed an excerpt from Mr. Singh’s play Kultar’s Mime. Moderated by Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and founder and director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

Cosponsored by the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

Watch video: September 2016 RPP Colloquium and Pluralism Project Anniversary: Speaking the Sikh Experience

Leyma Gbowee
Leymah Gbowee. / Photo: Michael Angelo
Keynote RPP Colloquium for Harvard Divinity School's Bicentennial: RPP Colloquium with Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee: Women as Catalysts for Local and Global Spiritually-Engaged Movements for Sustainable Peace
Thursday, October 6, 2016

The session featured 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist, trained social worker, and women’s rights advocate. Leymah’s leadership of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace – which brought together Christian and Muslim women in a nonviolent movement that played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003 – is chronicled in her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers (2011), and in the award-winning documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008). She is founder and current President of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa. She was the founding head of the Liberian Reconciliation Initiative, and was the co-Founder and former Executive Director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-A). She is also a founding member and former Liberia Coordinator of Women in Peacebuilding Network/West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP). Leymah is currently named a Distinguished Activist-in-Residence at Union Theological Seminary. She travels internationally to advocate for human rights and peace and security.

The event was moderated by David N. Hempton, Dean of Harvard Divinity School and Ann Braude, director of the Women’s Studies in Religion Program and Senior Lecturer on American Religious History.

Cosponsored by the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at HDS. Additional generous support for the 2016 keynote events was provided by the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities at Harvard University and the Susan Shallcross Swartz Endowment for Christian Studies.

Watch video: October 2016 RPP Colloquium with Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee

November 10th Colloquium PanelA Special RPP Colloquium Conversation: Cultivating Community across Divides in the US: Relationship Building as a Spiritual Practice
Thursday, November 10, 2016

Grassroots relationship building across divides has emerged as a recommendation from scholars, practitioners, and religious peacebuilders in many of our RPP conversations. Whatever may be occurring in US politics and policy, ongoing work by ordinary people to build community across religious, racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and political lines will be crucial for us to move toward a healthy democracy and sustainable peace in this country. While recent political and social turmoil in the US has led to much pain, partisanship, and anger, it also presents an opportunity for individuals and communities to demonstrate and model a more constructive path forward.

This special post-election conversation featured Melissa W. Bartholomew, MSW/PhD candidate at Boston College School of Social Work, MDiv ’15 HDS, and JD, Howard University School of Law; Hugh O‘Doherty, EdD HGSE, Lecturer in Public Policy, HKS; Stephanie Paulsell, Susan Shallcross Swartz Professor of the Practice of Christian Studies, HDS; Matthew Potts, Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies, HDS; Elizabeth R. Lee-Hood, PhD candidate in Religion, GSAS, MTS ’96 HDS, AB ’90 College, and RPP Research Associate; and moderated by David N. Hempton, Dean of the Faculty of Divinity, Alonzo L. McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies, John Lord O’Brian Professor of Divinity.

Dean David N. Hempton, having proposed in his Memorial Church sermon in October 2015 that we understand this peace work as a spiritual practice, hosted this reflective, forward-looking conversation.

Watch video: November 2016 RPP Colloquium on Cultivating Community across Divides in the US

Dean Hempton asks Leila Ahmed a questionRPP Colloquium: Religion and the Rights and Protection of Children in Humanitarian Crises: The Case of Syria
Thursday, December 1, 2016

Humanitarian crises affect children disproportionately. Without access to adequate nutrition, housing, healthcare, education, and physical and emotional security, the well-being of an entire generation of children can be lost in the course of responding to and resolving such a crisis. Yet, the particular humanitarian needs and protection of children are often overlooked. Religious communities and organizations, and people informed by religious values, often play a critical role in supporting effective intervention during conflict, and in post-conflict healing, in some cases doing so amidst conflicts that involve issues of religious difference.

This discussion considered the ongoing case of the Syrian refugee crisis with a lens on the well-being of the children affected by the conflict, and the relevance of religion and religious communities. UNICEF estimates that the total population directly affected by the crisis at the end of 2016 will number 4.7 million, over half of which are children.

The session featured Jacqueline Bhabha, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at HSPH, Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Lecturer in Law at HLS, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at HKS, and director of research at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights; Mohamad Al Bardan, executive director, American Relief Coalition for Syria (ARCS); Nousha Kabawat, founder and director, Project Amal ou Salam and co-founder, Syrian Center for Dialogue, Reconciliation, and Peace, Toronto; respondent Alexandra Chen, former regional advisor on child protection, mental health, and psychosocial support to Mercy Corps and United Nations (U.N.) agencies working on the Syria crisis; and moderator Leila Ahmed, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity, HDS.

Cosponsored by the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at HSPH.

Watch video: December 2016 RPP Colloquium on Children in Humanitarian Crises
Gun violence is a critical problem in the United States, daily bringing tragedy to families and communities across the United States. The National Institute of Justice reports that our urban areas, and our youth between the ages of 15 and 24, are most affected. Recent events, including highly-publicized shootings by police, have stimulated increased public discussion of the impact of gun violence on African American communities. In what way can communities respond to the complex challenge of gun violence? What spiritual and human resources might they bring to bear? During this event, we learned from leaders in the Boston area driving inspiring community-based initiatives to address the effects and sources of this local and national problem.

The session featured Chaplain Clementina Chéry, founder, president, and CEO, Louis D. Brown Peace Institute; Stanley Pollack, founder and executive director, Center for Teen Empowerment, presenting with youth organizer Tay Johnson; Monalisa Smith, founder, president, and CEO, Mothers for Justice and Equality; John M. Brown, sergeant detective, Boston Police Department; respondent David J. Harris, managing director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, HLS; and moderator Rev. Liz Walker, MDiv ’05, pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, board chair of Cory Johnson Trauma Education Program, award-winning journalist, and former television news anchor in Boston.

Cosponsored by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at HLS and the Racial Justice and Healing Initiative at HDS.

Watch video: January 2017 RPP Colloquium on Gun Violence

A panel member answers a questionRPP Colloquium: Religion and the Sphere of Care and Cooperation: Social Science Research on Religious Prosociality
Thursday, March 2, 2017

Recent interdisciplinary research on religious prosociality confirms that religion helps groups form, thrive, and grow—to include both one’s neighbors and distant strangers. While much contemporary discourse on religion highlights its role in conflict, few features of culture historically have done so much to promote human bonds at a large scale. This discussion considered social scientific research shedding light on religion’s role in advancing cooperation within groups, as well as its complex role in competition and cooperation among groups.

The session featured Omar Sultan Haque, MD, PhD, MTS, Program in Psychiatry and the Law, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at HMS and Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University; Joseph Henrich, PhD, Professor, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University and co-director of the Centre for Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture and the Cultural Evolution of Religion Consortium, University of British Columbia; and moderator and respondent Jeff Seul, JD, MTS ’97 HDS, LLM ’01 HLS, Lecturer on the Practice of Peace at HDS, cochair of the Peace Appeal Foundation, and partner at Holland & Knight.

Watch video: March 2017 RPP Colloquium on Religious Prosociality

Jocelyn Cesari speaks to the panelRPP Colloquium: Islam, Tradition, and Resources for Nonviolent Conflict Transformation
Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Islamic tradition and Muslim communities have rich and long legacies of teachings, practices, and precedents for prioritizing nonviolent approaches to conflict transformation. Two leading scholar-practitioners discussed theological, spiritual, and practical resources for peace in Islamic scripture and tradition, historical cases, and implications for our contemporary world during the event.

The session featured A. Rashied Omar, Research Scholar of Islamic Studies and Peacebuilding at Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame, MA from Kroc Institute, MA and PhD from University of Cape Town, who spoke on “Justice and Compassion: Embodying the Core Values of Peacebuilding in Islam;” Afra Jalabi, vice-chair of the board, the Day After Association, PhD student at Concordia University, MA from Carleton University and BA from McGill University, spoke on “In Search of the Lost Hero: The ‘Muslim’ as a Peace-Maker—Reflections on the Theory and Practice of Islamic Nonviolence and Its New Possibilities;” and moderator Jocelyne Cesari, Professor of Religion and Politics, director of research at Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion at Birmingham University, Senior Research Fellow at Berkley Center, Georgetown University, and Lecturer at HDS. Hosted and with welcome and introduction by William A. Graham, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Murray A. Albertson Professor of Middle Eastern Studies in FAS, member of the Faculty of Divinity and former Dean of Harvard Divinity School, and director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University.

Cosponsored by the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University.

Watch video: March 2017 RPP Colloquium on Islam and Nonviolent Conflict Transformation

Speaker listens to a guest skyping inRPP Colloquium: Beyond Militarization: The Role of Religious Communities in the Struggle for Justice and Peace
Thursday, April 6, 2017

At a time when the White House proposes to increase military spending by $54 billion while slashing funds for social programs at home and humanitarian aid abroad, we recall the warning of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that a nation spending more money on the military than on social uplift "is approaching spiritual death." What role can religious communities play today in resisting war and militarism and working for social and economic justice?

The session featured David Cortright, director of Policy Studies and the Peace Accords Matrix at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and special adviser for Policy Studies at the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, and moderator and respondent J. Bryan Hehir, Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at HKS and secretary of health care and social services at the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

Cosponsored by the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Watch video: April 2017 Colloquium on The Role of Religious Communities in the Struggle for Justice and Peace