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Public Forum With Noted Speakers Will Focus On Religion, Justice And Violence

October 14, 2003 -- “Religion, Justice, and Violence” will be the theme of a public forum at the University of Virginia on Friday, Nov. 7. Four internationally known scholars -- René Girard, Mark Juergensmeyer, Khaled Abou El Fadl and Danièle Hervieu-Leger -- will discuss how religion promotes both justice and violence in the world today.

The program, the second annual Levinson Lectures presented by U.Va.’s Center on Religion and Democracy, will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Newcomb Hall Ballroom. Juergensmeyer will speak at 9 a.m., Hervieu-Leger at 10:30 a.m., Abou El Fadl at 1 p.m. and Girard at 2:30 p.m. A panel discussion will follow at 4 p.m.

Girard, professor emeritus at Stanford University, has been widely influential with studies of violence and religion in the development of human culture and has inspired a generation of scholars in many fields. His books include “Violence and the Sacred,” “The Scapegoat” and “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.” His work leads to a fundamental question of the modern world: is violence the inevitable outcome of religious beliefs?

Abou El Fadl, professor of law at U.C.L.A. and a practicing U.S. lawyer, is a renowned expert on Islamic law. As a prominent public spokesperson on Islamic religion and law, he is concerned with an interpretation of Islam from a moral point of view. He has been active in defending the rights of women, immigrants and political dissidents through Human Rights Watch and the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights.

A leading scholar on religion’s role today, Hervieu-Leger, professor at the Écoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, will discuss paradoxes of religious belief. Her recent research focuses on the decline of Christianity in Europe, when Christianity is spreading rapidly in other parts of the world. She raises critical questions about the inevitability of war or peace as an outcome of religious doctrine.

Juergensmeyer, professor of sociology and director of global studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has written several books on religion, nationalism and violence, including “Terror in the Mind of God.” He has interviewed religious militants and argues that many of them commit violent acts because they believe their values are being assaulted by outsiders, and also because their communities often sympathize with their motives. He is editor of “Global Religions: An Introduction,” published this year by Oxford University Press.

The Levinson Lectures are endowed by Frank and Wynnette Levinson of Palo Alto, Calif., who are among U.Va.’s most generous benefactors. Last year’s inaugural lectures featured former French prime minister Lionel Jospin, Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington and journalist Robert Kaplan.

Contact: Marilyn Roselius, (434) 924-0998

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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