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Crucial Conversations

Center for the Study of Religious Freedom Releases Spring 2019 Programming

University News | February 19, 2019

The Center for the Study of Religious Freedom (CSRF) at Virginia Wesleyan University has released its spring 2019 publication, “Understanding Religious Freedom,” announcing programming and events for the spring semester. The publication supports CSRF’s vision of informing, transforming, and equipping individuals to be engaged leaders and citizens, as they increasingly understand why religious freedom is a basic human right of daily significance.

“This semester ‘Crucial Conversations’ serves as our theme,” says Director for the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom Craig Wansink. “At the Center we wade right into the middle of tensions–religious, racial, political and otherwise.  In society, outrage and silence are too often the unhealthy responses to conflict. Our programming and training opportunities provide safe spaces and build skills that are needed for discussing tense issues in a respectful manner."

In this semester’s series on mediating religious conflict, VWU professors Leslie Caughell and Eric Mazur, along with several guest speakers, focus on topics that range from divisiveness caused by fake news in social media, immigration challenges from 1940 and today, the problem of asking Muslims to condemn terrorism, and issues at the border between the religious practice of healing through prayer and public policy.

Training sessions aim to develop the skills needed to have crucial conversations that improve contentious relationships, and transform heated debate into meaningful dialogue, in an effort to find peaceful solutions to difficult problems. This semester, diversity and dialogue facilitation training is on the agenda as well as an interactive workshop that highlights important ingredients for moving from dialogue to action. On February 28, international peace educator Paul K. Chappell will be on campus to discuss Peace Literacy as a practical skill-set to increase realistic peace in our personal lives, communities, country, and world. According to Chappell, a West Point graduate who was deployed to Iraq and left active duty as a captain, Peace Literacy means survival literacy. 

NEXUS Interfaith Dialogue programs this semester focus on “The Role of Scripture in Faith.” The purpose of these programs is to get people to think about and recognize how different people or branches of a religion reflect on scripture in different ways.

In “Life Matters,” members of the Wesleyan community offer autobiographical reflections on their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual experiences. The spring semester series includes conversations with VWU Professor of Management, Business, and Economics Dave Garraty (March 12); Head Softball Coach Brandon Elliott ’03 (April 4); and Professor of Hispanic Studies Mavel Velasco (April 25).

These and other events planned for spring 2019 support the mission and vision of the Center which is grounded in Virginia Wesleyan University’s commitment to a rigorous liberal arts education and its United Methodist heritage. Through its program initiatives, the Center seeks not only to educate minds, but also to touch hearts, strengthening individuals to be agents of change, transforming their communities. The Center does not advocate any particular political or religious perspective, but does stand for principles of dialogue, liberty and engaged citizenship.

Learn more about The Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan University.