In June, the University of Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway and the Keough School of Global Affairs co-hosted the first Rome Summer Seminars on Religion and Global Politics. The two-week program welcomed seventeen graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working at the intersection of religious studies and international affairs for a full schedule of writing workshops, graduate seminars, and public events. The program included visits to the many sites that have made Rome a key hub for transnational and multi-religious policymaking, including the Great Mosque and Great Synagogue of Rome, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, the Community of Sant’Egidio, and the US Embassy to the Holy See.
“The idea of the Summer Seminars was to recognize the importance that Rome as a site for religious political activity has taken over the last 20 years,” said Michael Driessen, director of the program. “Rome’s transnational nature has turned it into a central hub for religious political activity with many different resources, an incredible network of people, ideas, and institutions at the intersection of religion and politics, and our hope was to take advantage of those resources, share them with the students, and connect scholars and students who are working on similar projects.”
“Rome is a city of great history and impressive architecture,” said Mahan Mirza, executive director of the Keough School’s Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, who served as an instructor for the program. “Just being in this city gives you a real gravitas for both tradition and the central role of religion in the life of communities and of the world; coming to Rome inspires students to think about the role of religion in global politics.”
The students in the program represented fifteen different countries including Georgia, the Gambia, Iran, Taiwan, Lebanon, Algeria, Romania, the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan, and hailed from a diverse array of universities such as Stanford, McGill, Göttingen, Notre Dame, Bouira and St. Andrews. Leading scholars in the field served as instructors, including Scott Appleby, the Marilyn Keough Dean of the Keough School; Gerard Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies at the Keough School’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and a fellow of the Ansari Institute, Olivier Roy of the European University Institute; Kristina Stoeckl of the private Italian University LUISS, Jonathan Laurence of Boston College; and Anna Rowlands of Durham University in the UK. Public events were held at the Pontifical Gregorian University and John Cabot University, as well as at the Rome Global Gateway.
Rowlands said: “I think we are currently living in a moment, in terms of the academy and the world, where there is a deep need for interdisciplinary conversations about the role of religion and global politics. The Rome Summer Seminars in Religion and Global Politics has therefore been a fantastic opportunity to work with a group of junior and senior scholars together, covering a really wide and appropriately global context.”
The Keough School and the Rome Global Gateway were founding partners of the program, along with the Pontifical Gregorian University, John Cabot University in Rome, the Hanns Seidel Stiftung of Germany, the Adyan Foundation of Lebanon, and the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies. The program was also held under the high patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with special support from Andrea Benzo, the Italian special envoy for religious freedom and interreligious dialogue.
The program ended with a two-day international policy dialogue hosted by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, a leading Italian think tank for international politics, and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the theme of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding in Contemporary Global Crises. The conference’s opening session and keynote address by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states, were held at the Italian Parliament and in Palazzo Montecitorio’s Sala della Regina, and institutionally hosted by the Italian Parliament’s permanent Committee for Foreign Affairs. Appleby also participated in a roundtable panel at the Italian Parliament following Archbishop Gallagher’s speech and offered a keynote address to students participating in the Rome Summer Seminars.
Driessen said that he was deeply impressed by the commitment of the students attending the seminars and the quality of their research and projects. For more information about the 2024 Rome Summer Seminars and how to apply, visit the Rome Summer Seminars website.
Originally published at rome.nd.edu on July 17, 2023.