Major US academic project will examine religious and secular tensions

By staff writers
November 9, 2010

The University of Notre Dame in the USA is inaugurating a major cross-cultural research project on 'Contending Modernities', religious and secular.

The venture will involve partnerships with scholars and educators from around the world and will focus on the consonances and tensions between Catholic, Muslim and secular perspectives.

Designed to unfold over several years, 'Contending Modernities' will generate new knowledge and understanding of the ways in which religious and secular people and institutions interact, for good and ill, says R. Scott Appleby, professor of history, director of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and director of the project.

"The problem of religious violence and tensions among religions and between the religious and secular forces are more sharply defined than ever," Appleby says. "Our vision with this research project is to harness the power of ideas to chart a way forward across religious and secular divides to address the greatest challenges of the 21st century."

Dozens of Catholic, Muslim and secular scholars and public intellectuals will be involved in the project, which in the future will expand to engage Jewish, Protestant and Orthodox Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and other religious and secular organisations and individuals.

A series of public launch events will take place in New York on 18 and 19 November 2010. at the Sheraton New York, 811 Seventh Avenue (53rd Street).

Keynote speakers will be the Rev John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame; Shaykh Ali Gomaa, Grand Mufti of Egypt; Jane Dammen McAuliffe, president of Bryn Mawr College and past president of the American Academy of Religion; and John T. McGreevy, professor of history and dean of Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters.

There will also be a panel discussion entitled 'Women, Family, and Society in Islam and Catholicism;, which will feature Ingrid Mattson, past president of the Islamic Society of North America; M. Cathleen Kaveny, professor of law and professor of theology at Notre Dame; Shahla Haeri, associate professor of cultural anthropology and director of women's studies at Boston University; and Jacqueline Moturi Ogega, director of the Women's Mobilization Program at Religions for Peace.

More information about the projcet is available on the Kroc Institute's website at


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