We asked Tiffany Tuett, founder and director of the Institute for Diversity and Civic Life, to write a blog post about a special workshop next week in Austin about how religious leaders and activists from diverse faith communities can work together despite religious differences.
Community leaders and activists working across religious difference want to mobilize the strengths of diverse communities to affect positive social change. At its best, interfaith engagement can foster a more just and inclusive society where diverse individuals and communities feel seen, heard, and valued. However, even those working with the best intentions can stumble on cross-cultural challenges and misunderstandings. Effective work with diverse religious communities requires more than just understanding different religious beliefs and customs. It requires an awareness of the social context in which diverse religions exist and the dynamics of power and privilege that are always present in interfaith encounters.
This Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20 – 21, the Institute for Diversity and Civic Life will hold a workshop, sponsored with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, to explore these issues: “Engaging Religious Difference.” Aimed at religious leaders and activists working with religious communities, this dynamic two-day workshop will blend lectures, group discussions, and experiential exercises with multimedia technologies to explore complex patterns of inclusion and exclusion.
Participants will develop cultural fluency, beginning by reflecting on their own social locations—how their circumstances, experiences, and assumptions affect the ways they interpret differences. From there, we’ll look at the history of religion and dynamics of diversity in the American public sphere. We’ll use anti-bias and anti-racism methods to explore interfaith activism from a civic perspective, giving special attention to social structures of inequality that impact religious communities. We’ll examine issues of religious freedom along with religious discrimination, such as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
On the second day of the workshop, we’ll focus on developing tools, techniques, and strategies for navigating religious and cultural diversity as well as building coalitions and alliances. By the end of the workshop, participants will have gained an effective framework that use to foster equity in engagement among people of all religions along skills for strategies for addressing conflicts and creating inclusive spaces.
The workshop will be facilitated by Dr. Christine J. Hong, Assistant Professor at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Dr. Tiffany Puett, Director of the Institute for Diversity and Civic Life.