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Department of Religious Studies

'Religion taken seriously, but not positively'

Fr. Jamal Khader, holder of the Cardinal Hume and Cardinal de Furstenberg Endowed Chair in Religious Studies at Bethlehem University, argued in a 2004 meeting in Europe about God and conflicts that religion in the 21st Century may be taken more seriously, but not in a positive manner. "In speaking of the Middle East, since the beginning of this century, especially after 9/11, one cannot avoid phrases such as ‘religion,' ‘religious tension,' ‘religious terrorism,'" specifying that "...fundamentalism is not exclusively an Islamic phenomenon." 

In the European September 2004 Intensive Program Meeting Postcolonial Europe in the Crucible of Cultures: Reckoning with God in a World of Conflicts, the proceedings of which were published in November 2007, Fr. Jamal presented a paper entitled "Opportunities and Threats for Religions in Conflict and Violence: How (Not) to Use the Name of God," whereby he poses the question: "Did God choose the faithful of any religion to announce their faith and knowledge of God by killing the other children of God." The question implies a deep mistrust of religion today. As a Catholic priest Fr. Jamal is asking a serious and reflective question of all believers in one God.

The response to his presentation was mixed. "For some, extremism is an Islamic phenomenon; to learn about Jewish and Christian fundamentalism and extremism was an eye-opening experience," Fr. Jamal said. "Fundamentalism is not confined to one religion, it is a constant danger for any religion, and when this fundamentalism is combined with a political problem, the danger of a religious ideology may lead to exclusivism and refusal of the other. The consequences of such ideologies are clear in the Holy Land." 

The conference was an occasion for the participants of the IP Program to reflect on different kinds of fundamentalism. Twenty-three European universities participated in the IP Program, which is part of the European Commission's Socrates Program. Around 100 students and professors from these universities gathered in Leuven, along with several guests from the "Two-Thirds World," to analyze how the understanding of God is constructed in Europe while an increasingly global world struggles with tension and conflict. This meeting was the second of three, aiming to reflect on God in Europe. The proceedings were edited by Jacques Haers SJ, Norbert Hintersteiner and Georges De Schrijver SJ and published in New York in 2007 by Rodopi.


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