RPP Colloquium 2016–17

Launched by Dean David N. Hempton 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 sessions that have already passed.

The RPP Colloquium was hosted 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 in 2016 from the El-Hibri Foundation and the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities at Harvard University.

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

Sarbpreet Singh is a playwright, commentator, poet, and the founder and director of the Gurmat Sangeet Project, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of traditional Sikh music.

J. Mehr Kaur is a graduate of Smith College with a B.A. in theatre with an emphasis in directing. Recent projects include Sara Ruhl’s Orlando, 'Water by the Spoonful' by Quiara Alegria Hudes in Northampton's 460-seat Theatre 14, and  'SEVEN: A documentary play' presented as part of Hillary Clinton's 2014 Women in Public Service Institute. 

Mr. Singh and Ms. Kaur were joined by the actors Benjamin Gutman, Sydney Grant, Monica Giordano, and Michelle Finston, who performed an excerpt from Mr. Singh’s play Kultar’s Mime.

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

Keynote Event: 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

Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, is 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 & security.

Watch video: October 2016 Colloquium with Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee: Women as Catalysts for Local and Global Spirituality

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 in this country to demonstrate and model a more constructive path forward. 

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 Colloquium with Dean David N. Hempton 'Cultivating Community Across Divides in the US'

Dean Hempton asks a question for Leila AhmedRPP Colloquium Event: "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 will consider 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.

Watch video: December 2016 Colloquium on Children in Humanitarian Crises

Panel on Gun ViolenceRPP Colloquium Event: "Healing, Bridge-building, and Empowerment to Address Gun Violence: Inspiration from Boston's African American Communities"


Thursday, January 26, 2017

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? Join us as we learn from leaders in the Boston area driving inspiring community-based initiatives to address the effects and sources of this local and national problem.   

Watch video: January 2017 Colloquium on Gun Violence

A panel member answers a questionRPP Colloquium Event: "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 will consider 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.

Watch video: March 2017 Colloquium on Religious Prosociality

Jocelyn Cesari speaks to the panelRPP Colloquium Event: "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.  Join us as two leading scholar-practitioners discuss theological, spiritual, and practical resources for peace in Islamic scripture and tradition, historical cases, and implications for our contemporary world. 

Watch video: March 2017 Colloquium on Nonviolent Conflict Transformation

Speaker listens to a guest skyping inRPP Colloquium Event: "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?

Watch video: April 2017 Colloquium 'Beyond Militarization'