Students win research grants to study religious tolerance; earn certificates
How do beliefs about religious tolerance affect the level of intergroup conflict? Can messages promoting tolerance reduce religious conflict? How do ideas about non-violence influence the development of religious identities and social movements? Can religious ideas about non-violence form the basis of alternative dispute resolution processes?
These questions are at the heart of four award-winning research projects that will take students to France, Senegal, and Bolivia, as well as to a psychology lab here at ASU, in their quest for answers.
The students—two graduate students and two undergraduates—won the grants as part of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict’s recently held “Friends of the Center” award competition. The winners were honored at an awards ceremony held at the Center on April 24.
Gabrielle Filip-Crawford, a doctoral student in psychology, will use her award to study how different kinds of messages about tolerance predict the path of intergroup conflict. Working with data collected as part of the Global Group Relations Survey, an NSF funded project led by psychology professor Steve Neuberg and political scientist Carolyn Warner, Filip-Crawford will focus especially on the way that various features of religion lead either to conflict or constructive dialogue.
“I have been interested in whether there are ways to decrease prejudice for a long time,” says Filip-Crawford. “Other research I have done suggests that the relationships between religiosity and prejudice can be moderated by tolerance interventions. This research award will give me an opportunity to find out if that is true.”
Cheikh Amadou Bamba Seye, a master’s student in religious studies, will travel to Senegal this summer to research the development of Mouridism, a nonviolent resistance movement to French colonization that is one of the largest Islamic Sufi Orders in Senegal today. Seye will study the religious and philosophical underpinnings of the movement and its founder, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba
“I am fascinated to learn more about Bamba’s conception of non-violence,” says Seye. “Was it different from the non-violence advocated by his successors Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King? Was the nonviolence geared towards political or social ends or was it purely religious? Finally, can Mouridism stand as a counter-example to religious violence and terrorism that threatens the stability and harmony of the world?”
Brittany Morris, a journalism major, won an award for her research project, “Women and the Veil in France under President Nicholas Sarkozy.” Morris will be interviewing Muslim women in France this summer for a documentary film she is preparing on women and the Qur’an in modern Islam. She is very interested to learn how these women understand their rights under Islam and within French society.
According to Morris, France is an especially important place to study this issue because while Muslim women may feel pressure from within their communities to wear the veil as an emblem of their identity, they are prohibited from doing so based on a ban spearheaded by Sarkozy. This is also an interesting case for observing the impact of religious intolerance on social conflict.
Morris hopes to use her documentary to bring attention to the social and political dynamics impacting Muslim women.
Rachel Bishop will head to Bolivia this summer to work as an intern with the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund. While in Bolivia, Bishop will use her award funds to learn about the Quaker’s Alternatives to Violence Project, observing how the Quaker belief that “there exists an inborn power for peace in every person” shapes conflict resolution programs in use in prisons, schools and communities.
Bishop’s interest in religion and peace stems from her exposure to the life stories of religious figures such as St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, and the Buddha when she was young.
“I want to pursue a career in conflict-resolution and peacebuilding work that draws largely upon religion as a vehicle for enacting positive change,” says Bishop, who majored in global studies. She plans on working in the nonprofit sector following her graduation.
Students earning Undergraduate Certificates in Religion and Conflict were also honored at the April 24 ceremony.
“The undergraduate certificate prepares students to enter professions in which an enhanced understanding of religion role in society is increasingly urgent,” says Linell Cady, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. “We are enormously pleased by the growth in the program over the last few years.”
Students earning certificates this past academic year included:
- Cameron Bean (Political Science)
- Rachel Bishop (Global Studies)
- Gary Escobar (History, Religious Studies)
- Rachel Page Gerrick (Religious Studies)
- Yalda Godusi (Global Studies)
- LeiAnna Hamel (Religious Studies, Russian)
- Jonathan Khalife (Religious Studies)
- Alesandro Norton (Political Science)
- Nisha Patel (Global Studies)
- Jorga Patterson (History)
- Valentino Popoca (Religious Studies)
- Tye Rabens (Journalism)
- Richard Ricketts (Religious Studies, Religion and Applied Ethics Studies)
- Malvika Sinha (Global Studies)
- Louis Weimer (History, Political Science)
The certificate is open to any undergraduate student enrolled at Arizona State University in any major, and may be of particular interest for students pursuing careers in journalism, law, policy work, diplomacy, the military, public advocacy, publishing, education, ministry, or other fields in which an enhanced understanding of religion and conflict is important.
There are over 40 students currently enrolled in the program.