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What in the world is going on these days? The images, the headlines, the news reports and political stump speeches would have us believe the worst about one another. But how accurate is this portrayal? What can we learn from one another? And how can this deeper understanding help create a more peaceful, just future?

Gaining this level of understanding can’t happen in the context of a single conversation, a single essay or article or speech. What is required is a deep, extended, and fearless examination and a genuine desire to come together.

That’s why the USC Caruso Catholic Center and the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC have brought three of the most respected scholars working in these areas today to lead the USC community and beyond in a semester-long exploration of the impact of religions on world events, and the historic and contemporary theologies that underpin the three western religions.

Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Amir Hussain and Pim Valkenberg will spend the Fall 2016 semester at USC engaging students, artists, colleagues, writers, politicians and the larger community in a lively, thoughtful and thought-provoking series of conversations and presentations on the subjects of “Race, Faith & Violence” in the world today.

Amir Hussain, a Canadian Muslim, is professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, where he teaches courses on Islam and world religions. An expert in the subject of contemporary Muslim societies in North America, Amir is the author or editor of five books and well as over 50 scholarly articles and book chapters and from 2011 to 2015, served as editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. He is currently finishing a book on how American Muslims have woven themselves into the fabric of American life, titled Islam and the Building of America. His deep commitment to interfaith work (especially among Jews, Christians, and Muslims) is evident in his teaching and his scholarly work, and one of the most important reasons we invited him to take part in the first “scholars in residence” program.

Pim (Wilhelmus G.B.M.) Valkenberg was born in the Netherlands where he studied both theology and religious studies. His field of specialization is Christian – Muslim dialogue in the context of Abrahamic partnership, both in the present and in the (Medieval) period. He is also interested in Christology, Hermeneutics, comparative theology, mysticism, and the study of the Qur’an. Pim has taught at the (then) Catholic University of Nijmegen, Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and is currently professor of Religion and Culture in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Rabbi Reuven Firestone grew up in Northern California and was educated at Antioch College, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Hebrew Union College where he received his M.A. in Hebrew literature in 1980 and Rabbinic Ordination in 1982, and New York University where he received his Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic studies in 1988. He serves as the Regenstein Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and on the faculty of the School of Religion and the Middle East Studies Center at USC as well as served as vice president of the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) and the president of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA).

The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC is the only research institute of its kind, and is dedicated to the idea that true interreligious and interdisciplinary dialogue and research will benefit the academy and all religions, as well as deepen the intellectual and spiritual traditions of Catholicism. 

For more than 90 years, the Catholic community at USC has sought to build and sustain a spirit of faith, service and intellect among the Catholic Trojan family. We seek to develop transformative Catholic leaders bearing witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Savior Parish and USC Caruso Catholic Center are delighted to participate in this exciting new partnership with the Institute of Advanced Catholic Studies.

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