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IOP representatives attended 2005 IAHR World Congress

The 19th World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) was held in Tokyo, Japan from March 24 to 30, 2005. The IAHR was founded in 1950, and has grown to 42 national and 6 regional member association and societies as well as 4 affiliated societies, reflecting the international and global character and scope of the association. The IAHR, which holds world congresses every five years, seeks to promote the activities of all scholars, members and affiliate associations and societies contributing to the historical, social and comparative study of religion. The IAHR Congress in the year 2005 will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the scientific congresses in the History of Religions discipline. It also marks the 75th anniversary of founding of Japan Association for Religious Studies (JARS).

More than 700 from overseas and 800 researchers and scholars from Japan participated in this event, and exchanged ideas from various field. The theme of the 2005 Congress was “Religion: Conflict and Peace,” which addresses one of the most urgent issues of our time which is widely discussed in academic circle today. The Congress was divided into 5 sessions. The first session’s sub-theme was “The Religious Dimension of War and Peace,” the second was “Technology, Life, and Death,” the third was “Global Religions and Local Cultures,” the fourth was Boundaries and Segregation,” and the fifth was “Method and Theory in the Study of Religion.”
The Conference is basically concerned with religion and power. Religion is also associated with political power in either an implicit or explicit manner, which provides another important aspect of study. Religion may serve as an identity marker in the maintenance of ethnic, social or political stability. But it can also serve as an identity marker in conflict of such nature. Religion does not have to be the cause of, or a contributing factor to, violent conflict between social groups. Religion and religious ideology can also serve to regulate social violence. At the same time of cold war, religion was often regarded as a constructive factor that could contribute to the stability of peace. On the other hand, increasing expectations are evident of resolving conflict through dialogue between civilizations.
The opening symposium on the afternoon of the same day focused on the theme of “Religion and Dialogue among Civilizations.” Professor of the University of Tokyo and Director of JARS Susumu Shimazono and other 4 panelists gave their presentations. One of the panelists, Tu Weiming, director of Harvard-Yenching Institute, USA, gave a keynote address titled “Toward a Dialogical Civilization: Religious Leaders as Public Intellectuals.” In his address he said, “A lofty aspiration of the public intellectual—politically concerned, socially engaged and culturally sensitive—is world citizenship. In our globalizing age, the cultivation of world citizenship is predicated on the emergence of a dialogical civilization. Such a civilization is humanistic and spiritual.”
Following his address, Karel Dobbelaere, professor at Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium spoke on “The Dialogue among Civilization through the Sociology of Religion.” His wife, Voyé Liliane, professor at Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium gave a speech titled “Nationalistic Aspects of Policies of Some European Governments Concerning Religious Matters.” Moreover, as a study of SGI, Helen Waterhouse from Open University, UK, presented a research paper on “Second Generation of Soka Gakkai in the UK,” and Sybille Hoehe from Philipps-University, Germany spoke on “Soka Gakkai and the Distillation of “Value” in the Japanese Education system.”
8 IOP Research Fellows also attended the symposium and shared their ideas from various fields such as studies on the Lotus Sutra, Chinese Buddhism and the study of Daisaku Ikeda's works. Tamae Manzoku, the overseas IOP Research Fellow spoke on “Transforming the Concept ‘Laïcité’ in Modern French Society: The Issue of Headscarves in Public Schools."

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