The Presidential Inauguration of Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.,
September 22-23, 2005

The forum "Why God? Understanding Religion and Enacting Faith in a Plural World" assembled world leaders for a dialogue on one of Notre Dame's fundamental imperatives: cultivating peace in a world torn by religious conflict. (Read a report about the Forum)

The Thursday, September 22 panel included His Eminence Oscar A. Cardinal Rodríguez, S.D.B., Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, nationally renowned architect of efforts to build bridges between Muslims and the West, founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement and Imam of New York City’s largest mosque; Naomi Chazan, professor of political science and African studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a former member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, and a three-decade participant in the Israeli-Palestine peace process, and the Hon. John C. Danforth, former U.S. Senator from Missouri and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw moderated.

Forum Panelists

Cardinal RodriguezHis Eminence Cardinal Rodríguez, S.D.B., Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras is renowned for his defense of human rights and the poor. Through such roles as president of the Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) from 1995 to 1999, Cardinal Rodriguez established a reputation for leadership that brought him international regard as a potential successor to Pope John Paul II. A member of several Pontifical Councils (the Council for Social Communications, the Council for Justice and Peace, the Commission for Latin America), he has served as the Vatican's spokesperson with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the issue of Third World debt.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is founder and chief executive officer of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA Society) and Imam of Masjid Al-Farah, a mosque in New York City 12 blocks from Ground Zero. He has dedicated his life to building bridges between Muslims and the West and is a leader in the effort to build religious pluralism and integrate Islam into modern American society.

By establishing ASMA in 1997, he created the first American organization committed to bringing Muslims and non-Muslims together through programs in culture, art, academia and current affairs. As Imam of Masjid Al-Farah, he preaches a message of peace and understanding between people, regardless of creed, nationality or political beliefs.

Imam Feisal is the architect of the Cordoba Initiative, an interreligious blueprint for improving relations between America and the Muslim world and pursuing Middle East peace. As a tireless advocate for an ecumenical solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has impressed his vision on U.S. lawmakers and administration officials, most recently as member of the National Interreligious Initiative For Peace in Washington D.C.

Professor Naomi ChazanProfessor Chazan is a former deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament and an outspoken and active proponent of Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives. A native of Jerusalem, where she now resides, Chazan served three terms in the Knesset representing the Meretz party. Chazan has founded and serves on the board of a variety of human rights, womens rights, and peace organizations and has held visiting professorships at Harvard University and MIT. She is author and editor of eight books on comparative politics, the Arab-Israel conflict and women in politics.

John DanforthAn ordained Episcopal minister, Danforth's faith has informed varied public roles, including his service as Special Envoy for Peace to Sudan in northern Africa. In 2001, at the behest of President Bush, he represented the U.S. government in talks to help settle the 17-year-old civil war between the northern and southern Sudanese. The former senator ranked 21st in seniority among the 100 senators and served on three key committees: the Committee on Finance; Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; and the Select Committee on Intelligence. Again at President Bush's request, he briefly served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 2004.

In his many decades reporting on international events, Tom Brokaw has chronicled the impact of religious leadership and religious conflict on peace and international development. He recently completed a series on the evangelical movement in America.

Students and faculty chime in

Distinguished panelists were joined by faculty members Lawrence E. Sullivan and Asma Afsaruddin and students Kathleen Fox and Denis Okello.

Lawrence E. Sullivan is professor of World Religions in the departments of Theology and Anthropology. He is a widely-respected authority on the native religions of South America who served for 14 years as the director of Harvard University's Center for the Study of World Religions before joining the Notre Dame faculty in 2004. A specialist in the rituals in post-colonial settings, his study “Icanchu’s Drum: An Orientation to Meaning in South American Religions” won the 1989 Association of American Publishers award for best book in philosophy and religion and a 1990 best book award from the American Council of Learned Societies. His writings include 65 scholarly articles; he has edited nine books and is associate editor of the 16-volume Encyclopedia of Religion. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Sullivan has held numerous research grants and served as President of the American Academy of Religions (AAR) and as deputy Secretary-General of the International Association for the History of Religions.

Asma Afsaruddin is associate professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies in the Department of Classics. Her fields of specialization are the religious and political thought of Islam, Qur'an and hadith studies, Islamic intellectual history and gender studies. She is the author of “Excellence and Precedence: Medieval Islamic Discourse on Legitimate Leadership” (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2002) and more than 50 research articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries on various aspects of Islamic thought. Afsaruddin is a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, and serves on the advisory board of Karamah, a human and women's rights organization, and on the advisory committee of the Muslim World Initiative of the United States Institute of Peace. Among her research projects is a specially commissioned monograph on early Muslims and a book manuscript about competing perspectives on jihad and martyrdom in Islamic thought. Her research has won funding from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, among others, and she was named a Carnegie Scholar for 2005 by the Carnegie Corporation.

Denis Okello is a Notre Dame graduate student enrolled in the master's program of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He has worked as a journalist in northern Uganda, where the Lord's Resistance Army has wreaked havoc on the local population in a conflict that has lasted close to two decades. Okello is interested in how the media can participate in the discourse on the causes and consequences of war, and how it can partake in effective peace building. He intends to return to northern Uganda to teach at a conflict resolution center.

Kathleen Fox is a Notre Dame junior completing the joint major in philosophy and theology. She is interested in the historical study of the attempt to give a rational account of religious belief as a means to greater personal faith.