Program on Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations Convenes Annual Colloquium

The Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination (LISD) at Princeton University’s Program on Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations (PORDIR) convened a colloquium, "Religion and Crisis: The Situation of Women and the Next Generation," in Vienna, Austria from June 7-9, 2013, in Vienna, Austria at the Liechtenstein City Palace and at the Diplomatic Academy. This was the fifth annual PORDIR colloquium. Previous PORDIR conferences focused on religion and self-determination (2011), religion in crisis diplomacy (2010), religion in development (2009), and the influence of religion and religious beliefs in the conduct of international diplomacy and power politics (2008). Participation in the conference was by invitation only.

The objective of the 2013 PORDIR colloquium was to analyze issues pertaining to the nexus between religion and issues related to women and youth, as events around the world make it clear that calls for better governance, democratization, and human rights are likely to become louder in the years to come. Special consideration was given to the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf. The push to secure rights for women and empower the next generation, and the rising emphasis on faith are inextricably linked, and this colloquium explored these issues through presentations by ten Princeton PORDIR fellows and roundtable discussions with practitioners, diplomats, and scholars. The colloquium was chaired by Wolfgang F. Danspeckgruber, Founding Director of LISD.

The PORDIR fellows presented their draft working papers over three thematically organized panels. The first panel, “Religion, Women, and National Identity,” included research by David Weil, Katie Manbachi, and Ankit Panda. Weil offered a comparative history of Turkey and Pakistan, focusing on the question of women’s rights as citizens at the founding of both states. Manbachi explicated Ayatollah Montazeri’s doctrine of Velayat-e Faqih and its socio-political implications in Iranian society. Panda analyzed the writings of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a Hindu nationalist political thinker in India, focusing on his use of geography.

The second panel of presentations, titled “Religion and Political Thought,” featured research conducted by Usaama al-Azami, Adriana Rexon, and Launa Greer. Al-Azami’s research, excerpted from his Near Eastern Studies dissertation research, analyzed the Muslim Brotherhood’s attitudes towards democracy with evidence from their internal deliberations. Rexon, also focusing on the Muslim Brotherhood, discussed moderation theory and its applicability to modern Egyptian politics. Greer explored Islamophobic trends in social media with the United Kingdom as a case study.

The third panel of fellow presentations focused broadly on the theme of “Religion, Crisis, and Diplomacy.” The panelists included PORDIR fellows Stephanie Char, Sarah Ray, Mengyi Xu, and Shikha Uberoi. Char presented her research on the role of Christian groups in inter-Korean diplomacy. Ray, a recent public policy graduate of the Woodrow Wilson School, focused on the political economy of the economic crisis in Spain, and possible policy approaches incorporating the church. Xu focused on the importance of personal factors in negotiation and diplomacy, including the difficulties that arise in cross-cultural and interreligious negotiations. Finally, Uberoi presented the framework for a social venture she hopes to launch in India to empower women and the youth called “Kaun Banega Hero.”

The PORDIR fellows additionally had the opportunity to privately meet with Dr. Johann Marte, and Dr. Erich Leitenberger of Pro-Oriente–an international organization intended to foster dialogue and interaction between the Catholic church, and the various Orthodox Christian churches to Europe’s east.

In addition to the fellows’ presentations, the conference featured several invited speakers. Mr. Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar, and Ms. Claudia Bandion-Ortner, Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General respectively of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) addressed the colloquium about the activities of their center, and the necessity for interreligious dialogue. The representatives from KAICIID followed their presentation with a candid discussion. Amb. Ursula Plassnik, former Foreign Minister of Austria, discussed her personal experiences in crisis diplomacy in navigating the Danish Jyllands-Posten cartoons crisis in 2006.

Over the course of the conference, the PORDIR fellows received feedback and questions from a group of invited expert participants. In addition to the fellows’ presentations, the fifth PORDIR conference featured commentary and lectures from accomplished experts in diplomacy, religion, law, and academia.

LISD created the Program on Religion, Diplomacy, and International relations in 2007 in response to the increasingly important role of religion in interstate and intrastate conflicts, and in aspects of international affairs. The program offers students and faculty at Princeton the opportunity to study, reflect, and generate ideas concerning the multiple intersections of religion, diplomacy, and international relations. The project currently includes a student fellowship program, weekly seminar series, and annual conference.