In June 2023, the University of Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway co-hosted the first edition of the Rome Summer Seminars on Religion and Global Politics. The two-week program welcomed 17 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows working at the intersection of religious studies and international affairs for a full schedule of writing workshops, graduate seminars, and public events. The program included visits to the many sites that have made Rome a key hub for transnational and multi-religious policymaking, including the Great Mosque and Great Synagogue of Rome, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, the community of Sant’Egidio, and the US Embassy to the Holy See.
“The idea of the Summer Seminars was to recognize the importance that Rome as a site for religious political activity has taken over the last 20 years,” comments Michael Driessen, director of the program. “Rome’s transnational nature has turned it into a central hub for religious political activity with many different resources, an incredible network of people, ideas, and institutions at the intersection of religion and politics, and our hope was to take advantage of those resources, share them with the students and connect scholars and students who are working on similar projects.”
“Rome is a city of great history and very impressive architecture,” adds Mahan Mirza, executive director of the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion in the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. “Just being in this city gives you a real gravitas of both tradition and a central place of religion in the life of communities and of the world; coming to Rome inspires students to think about the role of religion in global politics.”
The students in the program represented 15 different nationalities, including Georgia, the Gambia, Iran, Taiwan, Lebanon, Algeria, Romania, the UK, India and Pakistan; hailed from a diverse array of Universities such as Stanford, McGill, Göttingen, Notre Dame, Bouira, and St. Andrews. Leading scholars in the field, such as Olivier Roy of the European University Institute, Kristina Stoeckl of LUISS, Jonathan Laurence of Boston College, Anna Rowlands of Durham University and Scott Appleby, Dean of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, provided lectures and seminars for the students. Public events were held at the Pontifical Gregorian University and John Cabot University, as well as at the Rome Global Gateway.
Professor Anna Rowlands says: “I think we are currently living in a moment, in terms of the academy and the world, where there is a deep need for interdisciplinary conversations about the role of religion and global politics. The Rome Summer Seminars in Religion and Global Politics has therefore been a fantastic opportunity to work with a group of junior and senior scholars together, covering a really wide and appropriately global context.”
The University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs and Rome Global Gateway are founding partners of the program, along with the Pontifical Gregorian University, John Cabot University in Rome, the Hanns Seidel Stiftung of Germany, the Adyan Foundation of Lebanon, and the Royal Institute of Interfaith Studies. The program was also held under the high patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with special support from Andrea Benzo, the Italian Special Envoy for Religious Freedom and Interreligious Dialogue.
The program ended with a two-day international policy dialogue hosted by ISPI, a leading Italian think tank for international politics, and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the theme of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding in Contemporary Global Crises. The conference’s opening session and keynote address, by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, were held at the Italian Parliament, in Palazzo Montecitorio’s Sala della Regina, and institutionally hosted by the Italian Parliament’s permanent Committee for Foreign Affairs. Notre Dame’s Scott Appleby also participated in a roundtable panel at the Italian Parliament following Archbishop Gallagher’s speech and offered a keynote address to students participating in the Rome Summer Summers.
Driessen says that he was deeply impressed by the commitment of the students attending the seminars and the quality of their research and projects. The 2024 Rome Summer Seminars will run from 2 June - 15 June, 2024. For more information about the program and how to apply visit the Rome Summer Seminars website.