Convening 10 October 2017 Trento (Italy)
Exiting violence: the Role of Religion. From Texts to Theories
Bruno Kessler Foundation

Reset Dialogues on Civilizations in partnership with Bruno Kessler Foundation and Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs – George Washington University are glad to invite you to:

Exiting Violence: The Role of Religion From Texts to Theories 
10-12 October 2017
Kessler Foundation, Via Santa Croce 77

Exiting violence: the role of religion is a two years research project (2017-2018) developed in partnership with Reset DOC, Kessler Foundation and Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Aim of the project is to address the following questions: 1) How do believers and faith communities understand and explain violence in the name of God?; 2) How do they relate to violence in the name of their own God as opposed to violence in the name of the other’s God?; 3) How do they legitimize of condemn violence?; 4) How do they counter violence within their own tradition and/or community and in the broader society? A conference will be organized in Trento at Bruno Kessler foundation (October 10-12) to analyze the role of sacred texts in the shaping of theories with an impact on violence. The three great monotheistic religions, as well as Hinduism and Buddhism, will be covered. The event considers the various roles of sacred texts in different religious and cultural traditions, with reference to violence, and in particular the hermeneutics of violence in the sacred texts, 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. The project will end with an edited volume, based on the reviewed papers of the contributing scholars.


Throughout history, the 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 historical-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 interpretation, also affect the way in which we conceive the frame and narrative of conflicts, with some literary interpretations of sacred texts triggering rigid and intolerant views of cultural roots and religious traditions. As we will see during the conference, religious texts and theories on conflicts and violence impact well beyond the theological domain. Starting from hermeneutics of sacred texts, we will explore the relationship between religion and violence not only within religion, but also in politics (international and domestic) and in the challenge of pluralism and secularization. We will analyze the role of religion not as an independent and decontextualized variable, but as a factor linked to politics, society, culture, economy and ethics. Involving theologians, philosophers, anthropologists and political scientist, the event will discuss the following questions:

What is the role of sacred texts and related theories in shaping political frames more incline to tolerance and pluralism or on the contrary to radicalism and violence? What is the resulting role of religion in violent conflicts?

– Trento 2017 | Texts and Theories

The first conference in Trento will be focused on the analysis of sacred texts and theories about the role of religion in contemporary conflicts and in the peace processes. Sacred texts will be studied in their connection to religious experience and as the root of authority and the legitimacy of religious power. Texts, and the resulting theories, will not be taken as a self-evident “datum”, but in their historical-cultural context. This will imply looking at the role of texts even outside a theological, specialized context, where the recipients’ lack of hermeneutical tools and strategies of instrumentalization are likely to affect its use.

– Washington D. C. 2018 | Countering Violence Through Religion

A second conference will be held, if possible in Washington, in collaboration with the Berkley Center (Fall 2018). While it is true that violence has often taken a role in religious imagination, and has been justified through the use of religious texts and theological arguments, it cannot be neglected that religious groups have often taken a principled stance against the use of violence in many parts of the world. The 2018 event, to be held in Washington D. C., will critically analyze the links between religion and violence and the role of religious groups in using religion as a tool and a voice against the use of violence. While the Trento event will be focused on “texts and theories” this event will mainly deal with the practices of religious groups to prevent the diffusion of violence and react to situation of crisis.

Coordinator | Debora Tonelli, researcher for Bruno Kessler Foundation


Call & Grants for Students and young scholars are welcomed to participate to the Conference.

Please, see all application details here below.

Number: 6 Grants

Candidates: The participation is open to MA and Ph.D. students from different cultural areas

Contribution: board and lodging will be covered. Travel expenses will also be covered up 300 euros

Deadline: September 29, 2017

Documents: Applications must be sent to enclosing a motivation letter, academic curriculum, and a letter of presentation by a renowned scholar stating the relevance of the applicants’ research.

Please note that the attendance to the whole conference will be compulsory for scholarship recipients.



Tuesday, 10 October 2017

14.00 Welcome and Introduction
Giancarlo Bosetti, Reset Dialogues on Civilizations
Gerard Mannion, Georgetown University
Marco Ventura, Fondazione Bruno KesslerSESSION 1 | Hermeneutics of Violence in the Sacred Texts
Chair: Debora Tonelli, Fondazione Bruno Kessler

14.30 Divine Violence in an Anthropological Perspective
André Wénin, Université Catholique de Louvain15.15 Jihad as liberation in the Qur’an
Massimo Campanini, IUSS Pavia-Ambrosian Academy Milan15.55 Break

16.15 Bhagavad Gita and Violence in Indian Struggle for Independence
Donatella Dolcini, University Statale of Milano

17.00 Law of war, capital punishment and Flogging: Restriction of Sovereign Power in Early Rabbinic Literature
Naftali Rothenberg, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

17.45 Discussion


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

SESSION 2 | Politics of Religion and Violence
Chair: Pasquale Annicchino, Fondazione Bruno Kessler

09.00 Organization versus Holy Texts: Violence and Political Essence of Religions
Manlio Graziano, University La Sorbonne

09.45 “Figure Out What the Hell is Going On”: The Conceptualization and Operationalization of Religion in Trump’s Foreign Policy
Judd Birdsall, Cambridge Instiute for Religion & International Studies

10.25 Break

10.45 Religions and the Politics of Ethno-Nationalisms in Asia Hindutva, Sinhalatva, Laskar Jihad and Laskar Kristus. A Postcolonial Reading
Jude Lal Fernando, Trinity College Dublin

11.30 Religious Revivalism and the Limits of Interpretation
Assaf Sharon, Tel Aviv University

12.15 The Bible, Identity, and Violence: Violence and Biblical Interpretations in North America
Leo Lefebure, Georgetown University

12.55 Discussion

13.30 Lunch

SESSION 3 | The Role of Theories of Religion in Countering Violence
Chair: Gerard Mannion, Georgetown University

14.45 Legitimating Violence: Text, Belief, Punishment and Reward in Religious Contexts
Ian Reader, University of Manchester

15.30 In the Time of the Nations: Faith Contra Violence
Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame

16.10 Break

16.30 The Contribution of Islam to Peace and in the Middle East and Beyond
Irene Jillson, Georgetown University

17.15 Visions of Great Peace: Thinking through Chinese Religions on Personal and Socio-political Harmony
Louis Komjathy, University of San Diego

17.55 Discussion


Thursday, 12 October 2017

SESSION 4 | Mobilising the Interdisciplinary Approach: Ressources Theology, Sociology and the Law
Chair: Marco Ventura, Fondazione Bruno Kessler

09.00 Theologizing Contextually – Sketches of an Indian Experience
Vincent Sekhar, IDCR, Loyola College, Chennai

09.45 Extreme Buddhism: Leaving Monasteries, Fighting the Enemy
Vincenzo Pace, University of Padua

10.25 Break

10.45 The Challenge of Dual and Plural Legal Systems: Religious and Secular Jurisdictions
Gloria Moran, ICMES – Washington DC

11.30 Religion, Transvaluation and the Suspension of the Ethical
Gerard Mannion, Georgetown University

12.10 Discussion

13.00 Final Remarks
Giancarlo Bosetti, Reset Dialogues on Civilizations
Gerard Mannion, Georgetown University
Marco Ventura, Fondazione Bruno Kessler

The program may be subject to change. 



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