Yale Divinity School delegation takes part in U.S.-Muslim relations conference in Egypt

Editor’s Note: John Lindner, director of the Department of External Relations at YDS, was one of the YDS representatives to the June 16-18 conference in Alexandria, Egypt focused on improved U.S.-Muslim relations.  Following is his report on the gathering.

One year after President Obama’s now-famous Cairo speech calling for better relations between the United States and the Muslim world, representatives from Yale joined with people from over 45 countries to address the issue during a June 16-18 conference at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt.  Yale Divinity School was one of a dozen co-sponsors of the gathering, “Initiatives in Education, Science and Culture: Toward Enhanced U.S.-Muslim Countries Collaboration.”  Representatives of both the Obama administration and Arab League spoke at the conference.

BoothThe assembly took place in the architecturally stunning new Bibliotheca facilities built on the site of the ancient library of Alexandria.  A world center for advancing cultural understanding, the Bibliotheca’s mission is “as a library, an academic institution, a cultural Mecca, a pioneer in technology and communications, and a window to the world”.

Nine members of Yale’s faculty and administration participated in the conference, including six from Yale Divinity School.  Three of the Yale representatives participated in the conference program. In February 2010, YDS had hosted a workshop at which some of the conference planning took place.

Barbara Shailor, deputy provost of the University, moderated a panel on “Cultural Issues & Women’s Roles in Human Development.”   In her opening remarks she observed that “women perform 66 percent of the world’s work; produce 50 percent of the world’s food; but earn 10 percent of global income.”  

Miroslav Volf, director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture and the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at YDS, participated in the panel “Interfaith Dialogue.”  Making a point about the importance of one’s theoretical framework, Volf remarked, “Huntington’s theory (the “clash of civilizations”) is good for fighting, while Obama’s theory (a positive view of the world) is good for making peace.”

William Frucht, executive editor at Yale University Press, presented a paper entitled “The Importance of Translation” that traced the role of translation in the history of human development. One of the many outcomes of the conference was the announcement of a major new translation initiative that will involve collaboration between Yale University Press and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Other Yale participants were Karla Britton, lecturer in the School of Architecture; Joseph Cumming, director of the Reconciliation Program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture; Amanda Ogden, director of administration at the Center for Faith & Culture; John Lindner, director of the Department of External Relations at YDS; Lamin Sanneh, the D. Willis James Professor of Missions and World Christianity at YDS; and Sallama Shaker, visiting professor of Middle East and Islamic studies at YDS.

A major emphasis of the conference was the identification of projects and promotion of collaboration between institutions in the U.S. and those in the Arab/Islamic world.    An example of such growing collaboration for Yale is the growing relationship with Egypt’s Al Azhar University.  In 2010-11 YDS will host a woman student from Al Azhar who will be studying on a Fulbright Fellowship.

 “It is hoped that this series of conferences will result in shaping a significant new spectrum of cooperation and initiatives;” commented Dean Harold Attridge, “we are already beginning to see the positive results of this collaboration.”

Keynote addresses and panel discussions at the conference are available for viewing on the web at: http://webcast.bibalex.org/home/More.aspx?ID=2