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Buddhist-Christian Studies 24.1 (2004) 241-243

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International Conference on Religion and Globalization

Perkins School of Theology

The International Conference on Religion and Globalization, with over two hundred participants from thirty-one countries, was hosted by Payap University and its Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from 27 July to 2 August 2003, with the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies among the several cosponsoring organizations. Other sponsoring and cosponsoring organizations included the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, the Christian Conference of Asia, and the Museum of World Religions. Prof. John Butt, convener of the conference and director of the Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture, with other officials of Payap University, welcomed the delegates at the opening ceremonies on 27 July in a program that included musical and cultural presentations from the riches of the northern Thai heritage.

Plenary speakers included Dharma Master Hsin Tao, founder of the Museum of World Religions based in Taipei, Taiwan, who spoke on "Education for Interreligious Understanding in a Global Age." Donald Swearer, of Swarthmore College and Harvard University, spoke on "Religious Identity and Globalization," with a provocative subtitle: "Would Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed Drive an SUV?" He addressed sociological aspects of religious living in a globalized age, with particular reference to Thai society. Phra Paisan Wisalo, a noted Thai forest monk and ecological activist, spoke on the "Reform of the Thai Sangha in the Light of Global Realities." Dr. Wesley Ariarajah, a Methodist theologian from Sri Lanka who has worked for many years with the World Council of Churches, spoke on "Religious Diversity and Interfaith Relations in a Global Age."

The Venerable Dhammananda (formerly known as Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh) was scheduled to give a plenary address on "Women's Experience in Theravada Buddhism," but could not attend due to the untimely death of her beloved mother, the Ven.Voramai Kabilsingh, one of the pioneering twentieth-century bhiksuni s in Thailand. Mae Chee Vimuttiya delivered an address titled "The Tripitaka Answer to the Extremes in the Modern World." Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong (ret.) presented an address titled "Transcending the Limits of Religion in Search of the Wonder [End Page 241] of God," and spoke of challenges to Christian faith and life in a postmodern society. Muslim scholar and activist Chandra Muzaffar described the challenges to and prospects for the religions in the wake of the globalizing process in a plenary address titled "Religion and Society in a Global Age." Dr. Muzaffar's presentation succeeded in highlighting key issues faced by those sincerely looking for ways in which religious traditions and communities can contribute to global healing, rather than continue to be part of the problem that divides the human family. Michael von Brueck gave the final plenary address, titled "An Ethics of Justice in a Cross-Cultural Context," suggesting pathways for a hopeful future.

In addition to the plenary addresses, there were twelve plenary panels covering various topics. These included "Education for Global Awareness," chaired by Ruben Habito; "Religion and Media in a Global Age," chaired by Louis Gabaude; "Interfaith Dialogue in a Global Age: Personal Testimonies," chaired by Donald Swearer with members from the Interreligious Group for Theological Encounters, better known as the Cobb-Abe group; "Religion and the Globalization of War," chaired by Nancy Martin; "The Shadow of Religion: Killing People and Making Peace," chaired by John Butt; "Women and Spirituality," chaired by Roshan Dhunjibhoy; "The Transformation of Religious Traditions through Global Interreligious Encounter," chaired by JosephRunzo;"Islam,Social Justice,andGlobalization," chairedby Chandra Muzaffar; "Pluralism, Human Rights, and Buddhism," chaired by Michael von Brueck; "Students of Subaltern and Superpower States: Intercultural Communicative Competence via Information Technology," chaired by Daniel Wessner; "Globalization and ReligiousVocation," chaired by Herbert Swanson; and "Contemporary Exemplars of Interreligious Bridge-Building: Thomas Merton and Bede Griffiths," chaired by Douglas Conlan. In addition to the plenary sessions, individual paper sessions were held in three concurrent groups, with more than sixty topics presented by scholars and religious leaders throughout the entire...