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INTRODUCTION The main theme ofCOV&R 2000 held at Boston College from May 31 to June 3, 2000 was "Violence and Institution in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam." In the course ofthe conference, a one hour and forty-five minute plenary session was devoted to each of these five religions. The pattern was the same in each case. In the first twenty-five minutes,the assigned authorsummarizedorhighlighted apaper that had been distributed to the participants several weeks before. G? the second twenty-five minutes, the assigned respondent delivered his or her response. The remainder of the time was devoted to discussion or debate open to all participants. The respective presenters and respondents were, in this order: for Christianity, I myself, Robert J. Daly, S.J. and Paul Nuechterlein; for Judaism, Reuven Kimelman and Sandor Goodhart; for Islam, Qamar-ul Huda and Robert Hamerton-Kelly; for Hinduism, Francis X. Clooney, SJ. and Julie Shinnick; for Buddhism, Christoper Ives and Leo Lefebure. This issue of Contagion contains in succession the full text of each of these five papers, but not the twenty-five minute summary of it given at the conference, then the full text of the response, and finally a summary or highlighting of the major points that surfaced in the course of the discussion. The thinking behind structuring the conference in this way was the assumption the people who call themselves Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists have been in the past and are in the present, actively and/or passively, involved with violence, and that this involvement has somethingto do with the theological, religious, cultural, and socio-political institutions oftheir respective traditions. In other words, however they may be conceived or expressed, "violence" and "institution" are to be found in all of these traditions. But we must not presume—as indeed became quite clear in the course of the conference—that the ways in which Western civilization and culture understands these realities and tries to make sense of them with the help of mimetic theory will be congenial to people from 2 Introduction the other traditions. That is why the main presenters from each of the five traditions were asked to begin talking about violence and institution first and foremost in ways that make sense from within that tradition, and then, only secondarily, ifindeed at all, in ways that can also reach out in dialogue to others in other traditions. As part of this strategy, the man presenters were not asked to try to present theirtradition primarily in terms ofmimetic theory, butto make theirpresentations, as far as possible, fromperspectives within their tradition. As amatter offact, these presenters had, forthe most part, little or no prior acquaintance with mimetic theory. The assigned respondents, on the other hand, were chosen as established Girardian scholars and asked to respond from the perspective of Girardian mimetic theory. It was originally thought, somewhat unrealistically as itturned out, that the five major presenters would have been in extensive dialogue with each other before finalizing their papers for discussion with the conference participants. This was what was proposed to the board ofCOV&R as it was planning this conference. However, it turned out to be more than enough ofa challenge to identify and recruit scholars who were able and willing to take up the assigned task. What actually did happen was that Robert Daly, the presenter of the first paper and principal program organizer for the conference, was able to give the other four an early draft of his own presentation. This was designed to serve them as some kind ofan analogous model or foil. The adjective "analogous" was stressed, for there was from the outset a strong but still only inchoative sense of what René Girard articulated in the discussion period of the fifth session on Buddhism, namely, that "ninety percent of the words we use to talk about this [violence and mimetic theory] are exclusively Western." Thus, the basic commission that I gave to the other four presenters was something to the following effect: "Look, this is how one Christian scholar tries to make some sense of the problem of violence and institution in Christianity. Do something like this from your tradition. If my paper serves as a...


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