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International Summer School on Religion and Public Life


The International Summer School on Religion and Public Life provides a laboratory for the practical pedagogy of tolerance and living with difference in a global society. Its goals are to produce new practices and understandings for living together in a world populated by people with very different political ideas, moral beliefs and communal loyalties.

Its focus is on religion, as our religious identities are our most exclusive and our religious communities are those to which we devote our greatest loyalties. In our diverse but increasingly interconnected world, we need to find ways to live together. The school takes these very real, critical and defining differences, especially communal and religious differences between people, as the starting point of a publically shared life.

• The 2010 ISSRPL, Together and Apart: Divided Cities, will be 21 July--4 August in Nicosia, Cyprus, and Jaffa, Israel

The 2010 ISSRPL will be held in (and compare) two Mediterranean cities: Nicosia, Cyprus and Jaffa, Israel. Both are ancient cities--Cyprus was populated in the Neolithic period, when Jaffa was already a thriving port--and both are in successor states to the Ottoman Empire. Both are characterized by ethnic and religious diversity, contestation and conflict. In the case of Nicosia, this led, with the Turkish military intervention of 1974, to the physical division of the city and the displacement of its populace (with Turkish Muslims moving to the northern part of Cyprus and Greek Orthodox to the southern part of the island.) Jaffa, a mixed city, saw its Palestinian population flee and expelled in 1948 to be replaced by both refugees from other areas of Palestine and, at the end of the Israeli War of Independence (what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba), the settlement of large groups of Bulgarian and North African Jewish immigrants. More recently, Jaffa has seen the development of "gated communities" of the very rich, as well as an influx of ideologically committed, extremely right-wing and religious Jews determined to oust the remaining Palestinian population. All this makes for a very volatile mix.

The growth of such mixed cities and contested urban space is more and more a global phenomenon, characterizing cities from Birmingham, England to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina;from Yogjakarta, Indonesia to Istanbul, Turkey. Nicosia and Jaffa present two very different modes of accommodating such difference. We look forward to learning from the experience of each through the unique ISSRPL pedagogy of bringing together an
international cohort of fellows and combining academic lectures,
with site visits (what we term "practicums" or "embodied
knowledge") with shared reflection on the time spent in both locales.

Our local hosts for the 2010 program, Together and Apart: Divided Cities, are Academic College of Tel Aviv--Jaffa, University of Nicosia, University of Cyprus, and PRIO-Cyprus Center.

As in the past, the ISSRPL combines pluralistic perspectives on religious thought with social scientific research on tolerance, civil society and an open, dialogic, approach to pedagogic practice. Its goal is to transform both the theoretical models and concrete practices through which religious orientations and secular models of politics and society engage one another. Its guiding principle is that in order to build relations of tolerance and understanding between groups and to shape a civil society, the perceived
barrier between secular, modern and more traditional religious values must be broken down. Political orientations and social practices must be developed that will draw on both religious traditions and the insights of secular modernity in new and creative ways. The program is centered on three academic courses together with intense processes of group building and the construction of working relationships across religious and ethnic identities. The didactic goals of the conference are social as well as cognitive. It is expected that, as a result of attendance at the school, fellows develop and operationalize programs in their home

The application for the Eighth ISSRPL, in Nicosia, CYPRUS, and Jaffa, ISRAEL, is due by 15 April 2010.

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