By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–The IU Southeast Honors Program and The Common Experience will present the Tenth Religious Discussion Forum.
The will be held on March 8, from 6-9 p.m. on Zoom. It is free and open to all, but registration is required at this site.
Members of a distinguished panel will discuss how their worldviews correlate to the Common Experience theme, “Sustainability: Being Mindful and Making an Impact.” Marty Rosen, director emeritus of the IU Southeast Library, will moderate.
The panelists are Jud Hendrix, executive director of Interfaith Paths to Peace, representing Sacred Humanism; Dr. Janardhanan “Johnny” Alse of the Hindu Temple of Kentucky and IU Southeast professor of economics, representing the Hindu tradition; Jeremiah Cunningham of Buffalo Lightning Way and adjunct professor of humanities and religious studies at Jefferson Community & Technical College, representing the Lakota Tradition; Dr. Eric Schansberg, author and IU Southeast professor of economics, representing the Christian faith; and Jason Hiner, journalist, author and business leader, representing the Louisville Baha’i community.
The Forum was conceptualized and organized in 2008 by the first cohort of Honors students, led by alumna Rebecca Yeager. The theme was “Heaven and Earth: The Future of Religion and Science,” and the panelists contributed insights from Hinduism, Atheism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Islam.
In the following years, the Forum came to be aligned with the annual theme of The Common Experience, allowing Honors students to enrich and be enriched by the broader campus and community conversation around topics ranging from science to social justice.
Schansberg has participated periodically over the years. He appreciates the chance to break down the barriers between cultures and disciplines in a conversation that concerns everyone.
“It allows others a low-cost opportunity to think more carefully about a topic in the intersection of faith, theology, and practice, from a variety of viewpoints,” Schansberg said. “This is certainly important for students but a good opportunity for the larger community as well.”
Alse has been participating in interfaith events in the Louisville area for more than two decades. He sees a perfect alignment with the goals of the institution.
“The true purpose of education is to provide opportunities for students to evolve, expand and grow intellectually and in their ability to think critically,” Alse said. “The ideas and views expressed in these forums have potential to challenge held beliefs, force participants to self-reflect and dig deeper within themselves in search of truth, consistent with mission of our university.”
The ability to come together is especially important in a time when the species is challenged by crises that make no subtle distinctions between us, according to Alse.
“Even though religious traditions, practices, rituals, worship methods, philosophies, view of god and relationship between man, god and universe might be varied and sometimes even contradictory among panel members, the real issues like COVID-19, climate change, sustainability of limited, environmental destruction and degradation affect one and all irrespective of one’s religious traditions, nationality, race, and gender,” Alse said. “So, events and forums that bring people together from different perspectives shine the light and bring awareness to the urgent and pressing issues that affect us all and discuss ways, means, values and practical methods to overcome them.”
For Dr. Rebekah Dement, interim director of the Honors Program, the Forum expresses what the Honors Program is all about.
“The Honors Program is eager to foster productive discussions involving diverse perspectives,” Dement said. “By challenging ourselves to consider alternate viewpoints on complex topics, we can better understand the world around us, and make more informed, impactful decisions as a result.”
Homepage graphic by Ken Atkins.