International Summer School on Religion and Public Life (ISSRPL)
Explore the esteemed reviews and one-of-a-kind experiences shared below to get a taste of how the ISSRPL is powerful and meaningful.
Eating Together: The Hidden Story of the International Summer School on Religion and Public Life
By Rahel Wasserfall
On the 2010 ISSRPL in Cyprus, as broadcast on The World Today, BBC World Service radio, 30 December 2010
In a Divided Land, Lessons in Living Together
By Nick Thorpe, featured in the New York Times
Love (or Tolerate?) Thy Neighbor
By Andrew Thurston, featured on the Boston University College of Arts and Science’s page
The ISSRPL was an innovative program that provided insights and skills to community leaders of diverse religious, ethnic, racial and national backgrounds to facilitate them to work together with those of different backgrounds, traditions and world views. Its members were people of all ages and walks of life who came from around the globe. The central premise of the program was that the challenge of peaceful coexistence is not advanced by downplaying the very real differences between religious, ethnic and national affiliations, but rather in increasing sensitivity to and respect for these differences while maintaining one’s own identity and simultaneously creating and exploring methods of living together with “the other”. The ISSRPL organizers recognize that this is a critical, if not the central challenge faced by all religious, ethnic and national groups in the rapidly integrating global community.
Fellows and Faculty
The primary focus of the summer school was an intensive two week residential program that was conducted in parts of the world where there is religious, ethnic and national conflict. Each summer school focuses on a particular issue or conflict. The participants have included fellows from Albania, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Congo, Croatia, Egypt, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, and Uzbekistan. Among them have been high-school teachers and principals, civic leaders, rabbis, imams, priests, professors, attorneys, graduate students and members of the business community. The faculty is likewise diverse and is drawn from universities and NGO’s all over the world.
The first is a formal educational component consisting of daily classes offered by the faculty in the history, theology, sociology and psychology of the issue that forms the theme for the summer.
The second element consisted of participant meetings with local leaders and activists involved in the issues being addressed during the particular summer school session, and visiting the relevant contemporary and historical sites in the location where the summer school is being held. The summer school has been conducted in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Istanbul, Turkey; Stolac, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Jerusalem, and Jaffa, Israel; Sarajevo and Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Boston, Massachusetts (USA); Birmingham, England; and Nicosia, Cyprus.
The third element is the shared experience of the group in studying together, visiting people and places together, reinforced and amplified by collective group reflection on its shared experiences. This is accomplished through facilitated discussions, inter-personal dialogue, participants’ writing exercises, as well as in the informal interactions of fellows and faculty spending two weeks studying, traveling, and sharing leisure time together.
The unique nature and power of this program—both for the fellows and the faculty—is to be found in addressing difficult issues with the combination of academic learning, the exposure to real and ongoing conflict situations, within the context of continuing personal interaction with others whose religious, political and/or cultural worldview might be quite different from one’s own.
The ISSRPL convened summer school from 2003 – 2012. With approximately 27 fellows who attend each year, there are over 200 alumni of the program. The ISSRPL is in the process of establishing communication mechanisms to enable the fellows and faculty to maintain their relationships after the completing of each summer school session. In this manner those affiliated with ISSRPL can share ideas and be of support and assistance to each other in meeting the ongoing challenges in their home communities.
A special thanks to Jeremy Gunn for the spectacular images from the 2010 ISSRPL in Israel and Cyprus.