May 11 2011

Unique Perspectives for Common Good

A few weeks ago, as the final project in our oral speaking class taught by Dr. Rubin, international students at Candler held a “Mini Symposium.”  The title of this symposium was “International Student Perspectives on Resolving Conflict in and through the Church.”  The presenters in our symposium consisted of six Korean students, including me, and two African students.  We felt wonderful community support from Candler faculty members (Rev. Ellen, Dr. Kraftchick, and Dr. Jenkins) and American students who came to listen to our presentations, and we had a great time sharing unique perspectives based on different social contexts and on resolving conflicts.  One purpose of our class was to enhance our ability of oral speaking in English, but as an international student at Candler, I also learned the importance of my presence at Candler.  Sometimes in my first year, I felt difficulties due to my different cultural aspects and social context from my American classmates.  However, through this symposium, I found that my differences contributed to diversity at Candler, and this diversity can serve to give unique insight to the dominant culture.

The topic of my presentation was a lesson from inter-religious dialogue in the ministry of Rev. Won Yong Kang.  First, I introduced a social conflict raised by some conservative Christian groups in South Korea.  In 2007, Christians Youth Union held a massive prayer gathering for the destruction of Buddhist temples; this gathering caused a serious social conflict among religions in South Korea.  In order to resolve such a conflict among religions, I suggested following the pattern of inter-religious dialogue among six major religions in South Korea like that led by Rev. Won Yong Kang in 1965 as an alternative in relationship among religions. (Rev. Won Yong Kang was a Korean Presbyterian pastor and studied at Union Theological Seminary, so he was greatly influenced by Christian Realism)  Rev. Kang emphasized that believers should transcend the issue of salvation for members of other faiths, because this issue often cause violent behaviors to other religions.  Rev. Kang hoped that through inter-religious dialogue, believers can be more morally and spiritually mature by learning from other religions and serve the common good, especially social justice and peace.  While preparing my presentation, I found that there is a “Christian Dialogue Academy,” which keeps alive the spirit of Rev. Kang’s ministry, and this organization leads inter-religious dialogue to seek the common good. For example, one project involved gathering leaders of various religions to discuss a way to revitalize the rural economy in South Korea.

Even though I could not search all the specific aspects of Rev. Kang’s ministry, I found one possibility to make peace in society as well as among religions. When we consider the relatively short history of Korean Protestantism (about 100 years), Rev. Kang’s leadership is very striking, and his ministry was a prophetic ministry which attempted to give alternatives to the dominant culture (according to Brueggemann’s definition). Social conflict among religions is not a problem of only South Korea.  This issue is prevalent throughout the world, and I am confident that a Korean Pastor’s peaceful and active ministry can be one example for resolving the social conflict.  Similarly, as a Korean student at Candler, I want to keep contributing to Candler’s diversity by introducing unique perspectives based on different social context from American’s.  For me, this contribution is one of best my “joys” at Candler.

-Won Chul Shin

Won Chul is a rising second year MDiv at Candler from South Korea.


Nov 19 2008

Jimmy Carter Lectures at Candler

(Photo courtesy of Myron McGhee)



Reflections from Maria Presley, MDiv 2011 (below, left):

It’s not every day that topics like violence in the Sudan, the peace process in the Balkans, and the conflict transformative tools inherent in the world’s religions are topics of casual conversation. However, Dr. Tom Flores’ class, Sacred Ambivalence: Violence, Peacebuilding, and Interfaith Dialogue makes these issues come to life and examines the religious dimensions of personal and international conflict. Class readings include works by peace theorists like John Paul Lederach, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, and the many on-the-ground peacekeepers involved in religion and conflict resolution.

On Wednesday the 12th, our class was host to a surprise guest lecturer who has combined theory, policy, and on-the-ground peacekeeping for over 30 years as both the President of the United States and the founder of an NGO dedicated to election reform and conflict transformation. President Jimmy Carter spoke to our class about his life and experience, including about his personal faith convictions and his break from the Southern Baptist Church; the geographical and physical divide that separates Christians on issues of homosexuality, abortion, and gender; and the separation of church and state as discussed in his book, Our Endangered Values. At the end of his lecture, he took questions from the class and discussed topics ranging from The Camp David Accords to the role of religion in the global community. Throughout the discussion, students engaged President Carter on issues relating to class material, and sat in a state of amazement as one of the top peacemakers of our time intimately discussed the role of faith in his life’s work. In the span of an hour and a half, President Carter summarized many of the religious and political issues the class has grappled with and left us incredibly grateful that he took the time to lead discussion and give us a memory that won’t soon be forgotten.

Reflections from Jojo Ledgister, MDiv 2009 (above, right):

When was the last time you were greeted by secret service officers while going to class? Never? Well until Wednesday, November 12, my answer would have been the same. I was headed to Sacred Ambivalence: Violence, Peacebuilding, and Interfaith Dialogue, a class in which we have been studying violence and peacebuilding, and how religion both fuels and promotes violence and peace. Dr. Tom Flores gave us a vague warning that we would have a guest lecturer in our class, and told us to wear something nicer if we wanted to take pictures with our guest. Considering the amazing faculty at Candler and the wonderful connections we knew Dr. Flores has in the field of interfaith peacebuilding, he could have invited anyone! But no one expected to see President Jimmy Carter, one of the most prominent figures in peacebuilding, standing in our classroom just to give us, a group of seminary students, his perspective on religion and violence. We were thrilled!! President Carter gave us a brief summary of his background, and how his Christian faith has informed and shaped his desire to see peace in the world, and particularly in the Middle East. He kept his talk short to allow us time for questions, and hands eagerly went up. I was amazed at the breadth of questions, and the desire of our class to get clarity on concepts that we had argued over during several lectures.

Although President Carter answered most of our questions to our satisfaction, time flew by and we were left with the feeling that we should have asked so many more questions! However, it was still a valuable experience, and having President Carter in class was truly a demonstration of Dr. Flores’ commitment to grounding the principles we study in class to the realities that are lived out in the world. This lecture is yet another reason why I am so excited and fortunate to be a Candler student!


Oct 26 2007

The Dalai Lama on Peacebuilding

What do President Jimmy Carter, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama have in common? Knowing the source of this blog, you can probably guess that these three distinguished individuals were recently on campus at Emory University, but how often can you experience three dialogue partners of this caliber in one week? While every week at Emory does not draw world renowned speakers, theologians, and politicians, this is an exciting time to be at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. In fact, both President Carter and the Dalai Lama spoke in Cannon Chapel this week, focusing on what it means to be a religious person in this day and age.

The week of great speakers began when President Jimmy Carter gave a talk about being a Christian in the 21st Century to an engaged and intimate audience of Candler students, members of the religious life community in the college, faculty, staff, and guests in Cannon Chapel on Thursday afternoon. Less than 24-hours later, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor visited Emory Law School on Friday morning, for a conference on “A Fair and Impartial Judiciary,” where she gave the keynote address. The national and local news began to take notice of Emory when the Dalai Lama arrived on campus for a visit, just days after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington D.C. What great resources we have at our fingertips by being situated within Emory University. Candler is one of very few seminaries connected to a major research university, and Candler students are invited to take full advantage of every opportunity at Emory, from concerts to community service and from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was the Cannon Visiting Distinguished Professor of Theology at Candler from 1998-2000 to Salman Rushdie, whose archives are in the University’s Woodruff Library and began a five-year appointment as Distinguished Writer in Residence this year.

Emory’s invitation to the Dalai Lama to join the faculty is the only academic appointment the Dalai Lama has ever accepted. His visit was marked by a conference on “Mindfulness, Compassion, and the Treatment of Depression,” several performances including Tibetan music and dance, the creation of a Mandala sand painting, a lecture and summit, and concluded with his installation as a Presidential Distinguished Professor and a public talk on Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. After standing in line with my Emory ID and entering a lottery (please forgive me, The United Methodist Church), I received a ticket for one of the many events featuring His Holiness. I had the privilege of attending Emory’s first Summit on Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding, on Sunday, October 21, 2007, which was right up my ally, as I have an interest in conflict transformation and interfaith dialogue.

Simply hearing the Dalai Lama speak on this topic would have satisfied me, but he was joined by four other panelists from the Hindu, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions, which added such rich dialogue to his sage comments. His Holiness the Dalai Lama began with a statement, which was followed by responses from Rabbi David Rosen, Sister Joan Chittister, Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, and Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im. Gandhi offered a high compliment to His Holiness at the beginning by saying, “People of all kinds are at home with this homeless man,” for the Dalai Lama has been in exile in India and away from his home of Tibet since 1959.

I really appreciated that various times during the dialogue, panelists and the moderator, Dr. Lauri Patton, reminded participants that we can create peacebuilding moments in our local context. In fact, Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im suggested that we stop to using “we” language and start using “I” language. Having been raised in The United Methodist Church, in the west, and being from a large family, I often feel most comfortable using “we” language, as a way to be more inclusive. However, he made a compelling point that individuals should not wait for others to join them, rather “individuals have the ability within themselves to create change.” He suggested we focus on our own human agency rather than relying on others to enlist in the movement for change, dialogue, or peacebuilding. In that same spirit, Sister Joan Chittister ended her time by stating, “If the people will lead, eventually the leaders will follow.”

Some of the questions that emerged out of the summit, and that I offer here for further reflection and dialogue is:
What are the best local peacemaking practices in places affected by religious violence?
How are people addressing these issues of religious violence “on the ground” in cities, communities, and neighborhoods?
For that matter, what is the role of religion in creating suffering in the world?

The Dalai Lama’s message was a message of love and affection. He said, “We really need a closer understanding of each other. It’s essential.” The Gospel message, which is my faith tradition, is to Love, and I believe is also the basic function of all religions and faith traditions. Sister Joan Chittister responded to the Dalai Lama by asking, directly to western Christians, “What do we have to contribute to the history of love?” What will we, as seminarians and discerners, future denominational leaders, community organizers, Christian educators, and global citizens, have to contribute to the history of love?

Sister Chittister told a story of a young man asking an older, religious sage, “Is there life after death?” and the sage asked back to the young, “Is there life before death?” Change can start in the here and now, for we all hold the possibilities for change and reconciliation. One of the final words from the Dalai Lama was in response to a question about Human Rights, in which he said, “If certain traditions don’t go well with current conditions, we have to change those traditions.” What hope for the future he offers!

Each panelist at the summit painted a beautiful image of change, transformation and dialogue, which Rabbi Rosen reminded us, is a powerful thing and can often be more affective than action. If you would like to be a part of a seminary within a university that offers outlets for dialogue about religion, conflict, and peacebuilding, Candler is the place for you. Pease contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, find us online at www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/ and look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.

By Lane Cotton Winn 07T
Candler School of Theology
Emory University
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid Intern