Elsa Barron, a University Notre Dame senior, reflects on insights she gleaned from a series of recent discussions exploring faith-based approaches to environmental peacebuilding.
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At the heart of it, pluralism invites us to engage with the new questions of the 21st century and to no longer see our differences as daunting borders. Embracing new faith traditions has made me a stronger Christian. By welcoming these traditions into my own religious space, I make more room to understand God as the trinity, as a mystery, and as the presence of all things.
The January 6 insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, DC, is just the beginning. It came as advertised; it was televised; and the perpetrators are promising more to come. We are now transitioning to an administration the rioters have been programmed to view as illegitimate. Combining their sense of disenfranchisement with deep feelings of being disrespected for generations, the rioters place us in danger of seeing the insurrection transformed into an all-out insurgency.
Undertaking research in my Indonesian home removes the somewhat convenient compartmentalization between my private and public lives. It transforms my home into a liminal space in which I experience my Indonesian and American identities within the same place. While this shift can be unsettling, it also has its advantages.
For me, as a Christian and soon-to-be seminarian, racism is not a political or social issue—it is a God issue. And anti-racism is a daily spiritual practice. The conversations I’m having with my Omani friends about countering racism as people of faith has not only deepened our mutual trust but expanded my understandings of Islam, Christianity, and God.
This time last year, a mother of two young sons wrote to our campus newspaper urging young women to avoid wearing leggings during Basilica Mass because it was distracting for her sons and other young men. The opinion piece spread like wildfire and found its way into various prominent media outlets, such as the Boston Globe…
Once I was displaced from my familiar American surroundings at the University of Notre Dame where Christianity is built into the very bricks of the school, I wrestled with these notions of religious freedom and tolerance throughout our time in Oman. The conversations I had with classmates have challenged me to rethink how many assumptions I carry about my own country, and to recognize what I take for granted in being part of the preferred religion of the United States.
I started writing this blog at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, here in a cosmopolitan city that has been known by many names: Byzantium, Constantinople, Nova Roma, Istanbul. Or “Islambul,” according to the folk etymological preference of the current president to highlight the Islamic character of the city. I am sipping Turkish coffee at a café overlooking the Bosphorus, after a hurried visit to Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). This wonder of Byzantine architecture was built in 537 CE and was once the largest cathedral in all of Christendom.
The second caliph of Islam, ‘Umar b. al-Khattab (r. 634-644 CE), is reported to have said that even if a dog were to die on the banks of the Euphrates River, he would be held accountable. Other reports say he spoke of a camel or sheep, or perhaps the Nile instead of the Euphrates. These details don’t change the meaning. As the leader of the fledgling Muslim community, it was ‘Umar’s responsibility to provide for the sustenance and care for all beings, even the very least of them, to the farthest stretches of his authority.…
The ship of capitalism set sail centuries ago. Its goods have reached the four corners of the world. The sands of the desert have become the silicon for microchips. Technology has changed the world, most certainly for the better, but pandemics remind us of our precarity. Are we going too fast? Can we build more resilience into our global system? Can its fruits be better shared among all? On the shores of Oman, at the crossroads of Africa and Asia, we were reminded of these questions, as we experienced a different rhythm of life, where, for a few days, strangers became like family, and we saw the possibility of a different world.
Over the course of the next few weeks and months, the Ansari Institute will engage in online conversations on questions relating to the human condition and to global affairs. Our conversations will include local and global partners, students and educators, and journalists and educators, as we explore how religion can serve as a force for good in the world.