THE growing problem of religion-related violence and how best to respond is the subject of a Murdoch University lecture series hosted by visiting University of Cambridge Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus David Ford.
According to a 2012 demographic study by Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, more than 84 per cent of the world’s population has a faith, but Professor Ford believes religions worldwide have struggled to adapt to modernity and in particular the rise of western secularism.
Many of those religions also exhibit conflicting beliefs, creating a global political climate that can easily lapse into hostility.
“I think the reason that religion-related violence is such an issue, and seems to be on the rise, is because religion is so important to so many people,” Prof Ford said.
“Exactly the areas where we are most deeply committed and hold our most precious values are also the areas where we have the sharpest disagreements.
“If religions don’t learn to get on better – both with each other and with people that hold secular views – then it is a very bad outlook for the world.
“It’s not about eliminating all differences, that will never happen, but rather improving the quality of our disagreements.”
A founding member of the Global Covenant of Religions, and its associated not-for-profit Global Covenant Partners, Professor Ford is committed to engaging with people and organisations across faiths to develop solutions for religion-related violence.
He believes universities, which bring together people from a multitude of religions and cultures, have an important role to play.
“The modern educated classes tend to have a fairly secular mindset and do not take religion seriously and consequently don’t really understand it at all,” Prof Ford said.
“Religions themselves have been impoverished as a result because many of the best students and sharpest minds don’t apply themselves to studying intelligent faith.
“Universities have quite a responsibility in this area because currently many of them don’t engage with religion at all.
“To create a healthily plural society you need places where religions can develop and adapt themselves to be wiser and more intelligent and where people who aren’t religious can also develop a better understanding of what others see and appreciate in faith.”
Prof Ford has already delivered the first of his three lectures, the remaining two take place on the evenings of March 16 and 23 at the Kim Beazley Lecture Theatre at Murdoch University.
For more information about the lectures, contact Professor Rowan Strong at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9369 6470.