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Scholars Study Religious Pluralism
updated: Jul 10, 2012, 3:00 PM
Seventeen scholars from around the world have gathered at UC Santa Barbara this
summer to study the religious diversity of the United States, and to learn
firsthand how people with widely differing beliefs can coexist.
The scholars are participating in a program titled "Study of the United States
Institutes -- Religious Pluralism and Public Presence." Hosted by UCSB's
Department of Religious Studies, the Study of the United States Institutes
(SUSI) program is part of a broader U.S. Department of State initiative that
seeks to promote a better understanding of the United States abroad by improving
the quality of teaching and the curricula used in academic institutions
overseas. The program at UCSB is one of several taking place this summer at
universities around the country.
During a two-day international conference on Wednesday and Thursday, July 17 and
18, the scholars will discuss the dynamics of religious pluralism in their home
countries. The conference will begin at 9 a.m. in the McCune Conference Room,
6020 Humanities and Social Sciences Building at UCSB. It is free and open to the
Participants in the summer program represent universities in 17 countries,
including Australia, Brazil, Burma, Burundi, Cameroon, Estonia, Greece, Hungary,
India, Indonesia, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, and
The program began on June 23 and continues through August 5. It features a
lecture series by UCSB faculty on topics such as the history of religion in the
U.S., the demography and sociology of religion, religion and the media, and
issues of church and state. Field trips to local congregations, along with study
tours to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. are designed
to help scholars understand the breadth of religious diversity in the U.S.
"The program seeks to present the United States, its people, and its culture in
a better -- though not unreal -- way than many people around the world perceive
us to be," said Wade Clark Roof, the J.F. Rowny Professor of Religion and
Society at UCSB and the program's co-academic director. "The participants are
journalists, professors, and government workers who are in a position to have
some public influence. This is our tenth year doing this, and we are hopeful
that what we do makes a difference."
"It's unfortunate, but religious intolerance and tensions between religious
groups have increased around the world," said Kathleen Moore, a UCSB professor
of religious studies and the program's co-academic director. "Because of
migration and globalization trends, religions are less confined to one
particular region than before. This program has widened the discussion about the
importance of dialogue."
The institute is funded by the Study of the United States Branch of the U.S.
Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
Participants are among over 40,000 individuals who take part in U.S. Department
of State exchange programs each year. For more than 60 years, ECA has funded and
supported programs that seek to promote mutual understanding and respect between
the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
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