How to Talk About Religion, Culture, and Violence: A Statement by the Director of CURA

Dear CURA Community,

CURA was founded with a mission that is easy to understand but sometimes difficult to enact. CURA is dedicated to understanding the power of religion and culture in world affairs.

That dedication is being tested now, when it feels like the world is being forced to pick sides in a binary struggle between states, religions, and cultures. This is not new. That dedication is tested every time culture warriors are mobilized for another round of overheated, militarized rhetoric about a “clash of civilizations.” We are amid another such moment now, sadly.

CURA’s mission is to remind our community that there is another way. We do not have to enlist in culture wars. We do not have to pick sides. We can retain our focus on uplifting principles that will guide us through the current moment: history as our guide, understanding difference, celebrating pluralism, promoting equality for all, improving democracy, and supporting global citizenship. We can point out that creating binary divisions militarizes diversity in ways that impede understanding, pluralism, and equality.

  • Our mission at CURA is not to enlist on the side of Islamic nationalists or Jewish nationalists. Our mission is to understand the origins, evolution, and impact of religious nationalisms in world affairs.
  • Our mission at CURA is not to mourn Jewish victims of militarism while ignoring Muslim victims of militarism. Our mission is to understand the militarization of religious traditions and cultures in world affairs.
  • Our mission at CURA is not to decry human rights violations by the Israeli Defense Forces while downplaying human rights violations by Hamas. We can do better; so can Hamas and the IDF. Our mission is to understand the historical conditions that give rise to violence and to understand how conflicts that invoke religion are resolved with peace and dignity for all.

Below is a short list of resources that I have found helpful in remaining steadfast to CURA’s mission. I hope these will be helpful to our community, too.

We will continue to share resources that reflect CURA’s mission over the difficult weeks ahead. And I hope you will join CURA in modeling how to have productive conversations about religion, culture, and violence.

Respectfully yours,


Jeremy Menchik
Director, The Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs: CURA
Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science
Boston University

The Compass of Mourning: Judith Butler writes about violence and the condemnation of violence

Vengeance Is Not a Policy: Ian Lustick, author of From Two-State Solution to One-State Reality, on the origins of violence

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