Exiting Violence: The Role of Religion. From Texts to Theories

Exiting violence: the role of religion is a biennial (2017- 2018) project, developed in partnership between Reset DOC and Kessler Foundation, that tries to address the following questions:

1) How do believers and faith groups understand and explain violence when committed in the name of God?
2) How do they relate to violence in the name of their own deity as opposed to violence in the name another’s?
3) How are they able to legitimize or condemn violence?
4) How are they able to counter violence within their own tradition and/or community as well as in the broader society?

In October 2017, the first of a series of conferences will be held in Trento and it will analyze the role of sacred texts in the shaping of theories with an impact on violence. The three Abrahamic religions, as well as Hinduism and Buddhism, will be covered. The event will take into consideration the various roles of sacred texts (and in particular the hermeneutics of violence within them) belonging to different religious and cultural traditions with reference to violence, the role of sacred texts in the shaping of theories and practice of religion related politics, theories of religion in the narrative of international conflicts, contemporary strategies for countering violence through religious pluralism.

Throughout history, sacred texts remain a relevant point of reference for affording the issue of religion related violence. If some theories consider the text as a ‘datum’, other schools focus on the importance of understanding the text in its historico-cultural context. In this case particular attention is paid to the distinction of what is historical from what is essential in its message and its narrative strategy. Sacred texts and their interpretations also affect the way in which we conceive the frame and narrative of conflicts, with some literary interpretations of sacred texts giving rise to rigid and intolerant views of cultural ancestry and religious traditions.
As we will see during the conference, religious texts and theories on conflicts and violence are influential well beyond the theological domain. Starting from the hermeneutics of sacred texts, we will explore the relationship between religion and violence not only within religion but also in politics (both international and domestic) as well as in the challenge of pluralism and secularization.
The role of religion will be analyzed not as an independent and decontextualized variable but as a factor intrinsically linked to politics, society, culture, economy and ethics.

Involving theologians, philosophers, anthropologists and political scientist, the event will discuss the following questions:

  1. How do sacred texts and their related theories give rise to politics more inclined to tolerance and pluralism?
  2. How does this differ from their ability to spawn radicalism and violence?
  3. What is the resulting role of religion in violent conflicts?

The results of these research activities will be published in English in cooperation with leading American and European academic publishers.

Scientific coordinator
Debora Tonelli and Pasquale Annicchino, Researchers
Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Italy

Scholars to be involved
Marco Ventura, Director FBK-ISR
José Casanova, Berkley Center at Georgetown University, Washington
Donatella Dolcini, University of Milan, Milan
Abdou Filali-Ansary, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, London
Manlio Graziano, IV-La Sorbonne, Paris
Mohammed Haddad, Director, Observatoire Arabe des Religions et des Libertés, Tunisia
Jeffrey Haynes, London Metropolitan University, London
Mark Juergensmeyer, Orfalea Center for Global and Interantional Studies, Santa Barbara
Jude Lal Fernando, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin
Gerard Mannion, Georgetown University
Adnane Mokrani, Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Study, Rome
Katherine Marshall, Berkley Center at Georgetown University, Washington
Luigi Narbone, Director of the Middle East Directions Programme
at the Robert Schuman
Nicholas Purcell, Brasenose College, Oxford
Olivier Roy, European University Institute, Florence Vincent Sekhar,
Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions, Loyola College, Chennai
Abdolkarim Soroush, Institute for Cultural Research and Studies, Iran
Nayla Tabbara, Director of Adyan Institute, Beirut
André Wénin, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven