Religion and Civil Society: A Comparative Perspective

August 1-17, Stolac, Bosnia and Herzegovina & Boston, United States

In 2006 the ISSRPL met in both Stolac, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Boston, United States to focus on “Religion and Civil Society: A Comparative Perspective.”

For many, civil society initiatives are seen as crucial to all democratization processes, whether in former Communist countries, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, or Latin America. They are understood as central to the workings of democracy in the United States as well. In this year’s school we explored the role of religion in shaping institutions of civil society. We also devoted ourselves to studying the fault lines of civil society (and religion) in two very different societies.

“The moment  . . . went beyond the cognitive level of understanding. It was a moment when my own group became the other to me.”
(Fellow, 2006)

In Stolac, fellows joined an international group of approximately 90 young people engaged in rebuilding religious edifices destroyed in the war of 1992-1995. They spent a few days with this group, participating in the physical work of reconstruction as well as the group learning periods and recreational activities. They then traveled to Boston and the campuses of Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School to reflect on the experiences of the work camp through the lens of the American experience of religion and civil society.

Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School, both institutions that train religious leaders, and share a campus. Their own efforts and successes in cooperation and joint programming point to the possibilities of crossing boundaries and developing new modes of civil discourse and action that are viable in the United States. They thus provided an ideal venue from which to reflect on the Bosnian reality. Our aim this summer was to maximize the knowledge that can be gained from bringing both experiences into a single focus.

2006 HostsAndover Newton Theological SchoolHebrew CollegeInternational Forum Bosnia & Interreligious Center on Public Life