Citizen Staff Writer
RENEE SCHAFER HORTON
Charles Tatum believes it is possible to bring people of diverse religious backgrounds together, introduce a controversial topic and not have anyone start yelling.
To prove his point, Tatum, the dean of the University of Arizona’s College of Humanities, launched a yearlong series this fall titled “Conversations Across Religious Traditions.”
The third segment in that series – “Jewish, Christian and Islamic Mysticism” – will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Building, 1130 N. Mountain Ave.
“What we’re trying to do is present, in an atmosphere of mutual respect, the exchange of views about legitimate differences among religious traditions in a dignified way,” Tatum said.
UA regularly hosts forums, colloquiums and presentations open to the wider community, Tatum said, and “we’ve had shouting and boycotting” from the audience and diatribe by the participants.
“What we’re trying to do here is demonstrate how we can disagree – and disagree passionately – but still do that with respect and dignity,” Tatum said.
The series is funded primarily through the office of UA President Robert Shelton, and the budget is between $15,000 and $20,000, Tatum said.
The first presentation in the series was about the relationship between Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures, and the second concerned women’s roles in religious communities.
In the spring, Tatum said, conversations will turn to religion and democracy.
“It is a little more hot-button,” he said. “But we have a broad and deep reservoir of knowledge on campus and we hope to draw on a combination of speakers.”
David Graizbord, a professor of Judaic Studies, is one of the three panel members for this week’s segment on mysticism.
He said popular interest in religion waxes and wanes according to cultural events, but university presentations on the subject remain relevant “because there is sustained interest in understanding religion and religious traditions through secular empirical studies.”
IF YOU GO
• What: “Jewish, Christian and Islamic Mysticism”
• When: 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Building, 1130 N. Mountain Ave.