Author Archives: David

CEDAR partners with Eshel to help build communities of difference

Living in society demands living among many different types of people, including those whose norms, models of a good life, and moral imperatives may differ from our own—for example, with respect to family, gender, and sexual orientations. How can we live harmoniously among people with different political ideas, moral beliefs, religious commitments, communal loyalties, and sexualities? How do we accommodate such difference, and when does the social fabric of belonging stretch beyond the breaking point? In other words, how can we engage the other with compassion, while also sustaining the group boundaries that define us?

Attempting to address such questions is uniquely challenging in Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, especially when perceived threats touch upon basic human needs, the vulnerabilities of the body, and specifically gender and sexuality.  One group’s sexual expressions are seen by another as a sign of corruption and decadence. One community’s commitment to holiness and self-restraint is taken by the other as an invitation to pathological hatred. For gay teens and young adults growing up in Orthodox Jewish environments, the crucible of crushing guilt can lead to mortal danger. The conflict between longstanding religious norms and emerging social and scientific realities has occasionally resulted not only in suicide but also in violence in the streets.

Eshel is a nonprofit organization in the United States and Canada that works to create community and acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews and their families in Orthodox Jewish communities. Increasingly over the past few years, CEDAR staff have been working with Eshel leadership toward developing programming for an open and inclusive place in Orthodox Jewish communities where LGBTQ individuals can feel welcome as full members of the community, able to live their lives according to their own choices and preferences.

Eshel’s approach to matters of sexual preference embodies CEDAR’s philosophy regarding the importance of accepting difference, especially from and within more traditional social, cultural, and religious parameters. Eshel’s work in schools, families, among individuals, and in Orthodox synagogues aligns with CEDAR’s pedagogy for living with difference, and we are pleased and honored to play a role in its development. Thus far, collaboration has revolved around programming events, though we are looking forward to expanding our collaboration in the development of shared projects and pedagogies.

Webinar on “Living with Different Cultures” (CEDAR-Japan)

On March 8, 2021, the Research Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Hiroshima University in Japan hosted a webinar in Japanese and English on “Living with Different Cultures”. The webinar was led by CEDAR fellow Tinka Delakorda Kawashima (Hiroshima University) and Adam Seligman (CEDAR).

In addition to the public webinar, a smaller audience of educators–Hiroshima University faculty and others whose work focuses on both childhood education and intercultural competence–participated in a closed meeting to discuss the CEDAR pedagogy and its uses in the Japanese context.

The event was recorded and can be viewed here.

Conversation on “Engaging with Difference, Religious Pluralism, and Building at Tolerant Civil Society”

On February 18, 2021, Adam Seligman was interviewed for a session on “Engaging with Difference, Religious Pluralism, and Building a Tolerant Civil Society”. Part of Georgetown University’s Global Religious and Secular Dynamics Discussion Series, Seligman was interviewed by José Casanova, and discussed questions about civil society, trust, authority, collective belonging, and the challenges posed by individualism and modern human rights discourse to any shared idea of a substantive public good. Weaving together theory and practice, the two scholars also discussed Seligman’s role as director of CEDAR and the challenge of living with difference in a divided world.

This event is co-sponsored by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Reset Dialogues on Civilizations.

This event was recorded and can be viewed here.

Seminar on “Community and Belonging in Fracturing Societies”

On February 9, 2021, the Center for Governance and Markets at the University of Pittsburgh hosted a discussion with Adam Seligman, David Montgomery, and John Holmwood on “Community and Belonging in Fracturing Societies”. The discussion explored the difficulties of living with and tolerating difference and learning to trust members of different communities. A video of the talk, which was part of the Co-existing in Pluralistic Societies virtual seminar series, can be found here.

Speakers

Adam Seligman is Professor of Religion at Boston University and Director of CEDAR–Communities Engaging with Difference and Religion.

David Montgomery is Associate Research Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland and Director of Program Development of CEDAR–Communities Engaging with Difference and Religion.

John Holmwood is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham and Senior Researcher in the Centre for Science Technology and Society Studies of the Institute for Philosophy at the Czech Academy of Science.

Related Readings

CEDAR-Japan Developing Workshops in Nagasaki and Hiroshima

CEDAR-Nagasaki (August 2019) addressed the different histories and memories held by people from Japan and its former colonies. CEDAR-Hiroshima (March 2021) will focus on ethnic tensions rising under Japan’s new immigration act. To develop the program, the university-based CEDAR Hiroshima has been hosting a series of study meetings with local colleagues to build the network and share knowledge about the CEDAR pedagogy.

Given that workers in Japan do not have long holidays allowing them to join the standard two-week CEDAR programs, the Nagasaki and Hiroshima teams are exploring the most effective ways of translating the CEDAR experience to the Japanese context. The CEDAR-Japan workshops, for example, will be only three days long. The team plans to publish a program report with an appendix of the program outline in Japanese and English to show how shorter programs–held in conjunction with regular engagement–can help Japan develop a peaceful, multicultural society.

At present, collaborating with colleagues at Hiroshima University, CEDAR-Hiroshima is building a network for the first workshop, which will, through discussions with different members of society, help nurture a mindset for living with differences and learning from diversities. In the workshop, program participants will engage with local organizations that represent ethnically diverse communities including an NGO supporting immigrants; a workplace employing immigrants; a Catholic Church; and an ethnic school for Zainichi Koreans. Though COVID-19 has delayed CEDAR-Hiroshima preparations, the program–currently planned for Spring 2021–hopes to integrate the CEDAR pedagogy into local university teacher-training curriculums and will continue to coordinate with the CEDAR-Nagasaki program in adapting CEDAR to the Japanese context.

NSD Host on Rebuilding Solidarity from Anywhere

Rebuilding Solidarity from ‘Anywhere’:

A COVID Response from the Nusantara School of Difference Network

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most Institute for Resource Governance and Social Change (IRGSC) activities switched to working remotely from home and using an online platform to interact, managing nonetheless to build a solidarity movement at the time Indonesia declared its first COVID-19 case in March 2020. (IRGSC is the host organization of the Nusantara School of Difference.)

In the whole province, there was no facility to do COVID-19 swab- testing until the fourth week of April 2020. While such a laboratory is now operating, the test capacity receives very limited use and is expensive; the current cost per person is 1,500,000 rupiah per test, which is about three times the salary of a contract teacher in rural areas. The cost makes it unaffordable for most people in the East Nusa Tenggara province.

Our contribution to coping with the pandemic started in the second week of March 2020, when a friend from Jakarta requested us to translate a government handbook to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to take care of those infected. We did this in two days, for free. It was the work of more than 20 people with different backgrounds including medical doctors, sociologists, and others. We understood that during the crisis we need to work together to rebuild solidarity from anywhere. Anywhere may mean help from someone in Iowa (United States) or Yogyakarta (Indonesia), or  Tasmania (Australia).

What was unique in this case was that rather than working with people we know or with whom we had established contacts, here we simply worked with others who shared our goal, even without knowing one another. From the shared experience of the work itself, we got to know one another better and overcome the limitations of physical distance.

We worked with others to collect ideas, to share our anxiety, and to execute planning on a daily basis- during the pandemic. We continued for four months, until the 15th of July 2020, when the government lifted its internal travel restriction. We have produced several things out of this, including the COVID-19 handbook translation, face masks, sterilization boxes for N-95 medical masks, and swab chambers. Moreover, we coordinated and connected the district leaders and heads of provincial offices to communicate with each other and the general public. In short, we assisted and supported the government’s role through an effort of mass solidarity.

At present, we are running a fundraising campaign to build something we call a “People’s Laboratory” to provide not only the best care for COVID-19, but for other contagious diseases as well (something the government does not provide). This is our long term goal and we have raised funds for the training of lab operators and now waiting for the first laboratory provided by the government to do a mass test for COVID-19. This is a response to the public demand for the urgent need of a biomolecular-based-surveillance laboratory. We aim to set up at least one laboratory on each big island in the province (a total of four), in order to support the surveillance task on a large scale.

Reach out to IRGSC or Forum Academia NTT for more information on ways to support their ongoing efforts.

 

EPA in Conversation on Body Culture and Conflict

Emerging out of a very successful and challenging 2019 Equator Peace Academy program in Uganda and Kenya on Body Culture in East Africa, EPA has begun discussions in some local parishes in the Bukwo district of Uganda on developing new attitudes and approaches to body culture in East Africa. Much of this work has been on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic but will resume as soon as the situation allows.

At the same time, EPA has been working with fellows from former schools in both Western Uganda and Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to develop EPA/CEDAR pedagogies in addressing local challenges around tribalism, religious divisions, national frontiers, and ethnonational conflict. It is hoped that these will lead to further initiatives in Eastern DRC as well as Western Uganda

Reset Dialogues on Human Rights and Belonging

Between May–July 2020, Reset Dialogues published a Dossier project collectively titled “A World Without Human Rights?” The project brought together a dozen scholars from across Europe to engage with Adam Seligman and David Montgomery’s 2019 article on “The Tragedy of Human Rights: Liberalism and the Loss of Belonging.” Commentators included Silvio Ferrari and John Holmwood, who have participated in past CEDAR programs. In their response, Seligman and Montgomery both touch upon the CEDAR pedagogy as a way forward.

From the introduction to the special Dossier:

“These arguments touch on some central issues of contemporary philosophical and political debate, from the role of law in the development of civil society to the interaction between the universality of rights and the particularities of cultural and religious affiliations. The relationship between the rights due to the individual and those that must be recognized to groups (primarily minorities) and the conflict between rights and policies of freedom on the one hand and equality on the other are further questions that are raised by the Seligman-Montgomery article.

“No one can miss how topical these issues are and how important for the future of liberal democracies. Populist and nationalist movements have understood that globalisation has not erased but rather accentuated the need for roots, tradition, belonging and have used this need to challenge policies of rights based on equality and inclusion. On the one hand there is growing regret for (and the desire to rebuild) boundaries that include and exclude, warm the hearts of those inside but leave those outside in the cold. On the other hand, one wonders where this desire to rediscover the value of differences can lead. Won’t it end up justifying the new walls that are rising up everywhere, making us forget that each person is part of the same human family and disavowing rights (laboriously) recognized to each individual precisely on the basis of this universal belonging?”

Read the full debate and responses

Culture for Peace, Development and Rights (CPDR) established in Kenya

It is evident from lived experience that cultures are distinct from each other; each culture has unique elements. However, attempts to address human problems—conflicts, violence, poverty, etc.—tend to propose generalized solutions that create tensions among local cultures. Solutions, after all, cannot always be generalized. When standardized approaches to peace, development, and rights programs ignore the local context, resistance often emerges. It is considering this background that the Culture for Peace, Development and Rights (CPDR) non-profit organization was created in Kenya. CPDR seeks to create spaces for engaging international visions of generalized peace, development, and rights with the lived experiences of specific communities to promote ownership, dialogue, tolerance, inclusivity, respect, and dignity. When local visions of culture play an active role in peace and development processes, community ownership of the process becomes real and stability more secure.

In its approach, CPDR has borrowed from the CEDAR pedagogy. This has allowed the organization to be more effective in facilitating communities working to better integrate gender, local-value systems, and cultural practices into international peace, development, and rights programs to facilitate respectful engagement with the local cultural realities.

Adam Seligman receives the prestigious 2020 Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize

We are pleased to announce that Adam Seligman is a recipient of the 2020 Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize. Founded in 1972 by Franz D. Lucas on the 100th birthday of his father, Rabbi Leopold Lucas, who died in Theresienstadt, the Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize is awarded annually by the Faculty of Theology on behalf of the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. The award, endowed with 50,000 euros, recognizes outstanding achievements in the field of theology, intellectual history, historical research, and philosophy, as well as a commitment to international understanding and tolerance.

Seligman is the founding director of CEDAR—Communities Engaging with Difference and Religion, a non-governmental organization that for 20 years has run programs around the world on the topic of “living with difference”, and a professor of religion at Boston University. His work revolves around the importance of religion in a plural society. His writing combines different fields including religious studies, from more classical competences in the areas of ​​ritual, tradition, authority, and trust to the need for mutual respect in multi-religious and plural societies. Against this background, he is actively involved in current debates and initiatives around religion and tolerance. The jury cited the contribution of his work to advance the idea of tolerance.

Seligman shares the prize this year with Linda Woodhead of the University of Lancaster, UK. The award ceremony will not take place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic but will be linked to the 2021 award ceremony.