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Baker Peace Conference discusses religion and violence

ATHENS, Ohio (March 27, 2006) -- Ohio University's 2006 Baker Peace Conference will address the controversial topic, "Religion and Violence" on March 30-31. The conference is free and open to the public.

Dennis RossThe keynote speaker, former U.S. ambassador Dennis Ross, will speak at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 30, in the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. For more than 12 years, he played a leading role in shaping the U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and was instrumental in peace negotiations under former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

"Dennis Ross is probably the most knowledgeable person in the world on peace negotiations in the Middle East," said Steven Miner, director of the university's Contemporary History Institute, which organizes the conference in collaboration with the Ohio University Baker Peace Studies Program. "Dennis is a talented speaker who will both entertain and educate the audience and will lead off an exciting weekend of events."

A regular guest on TV and radio, Ross works as a Washington Institute counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow. Some of his major career accomplishments are contributing to the 1995 Interim Agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, the 1997 Hebron Accord, the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty and the Israel-Syria peace talks. He also has worked as the director of Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff and was deputy director of the Pentagon Office of Net Assessment.

Ross was presented with the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton and has received awards from James Baker and Madeleine Albright, former secretaries of state.

The conference wraps on Friday in the Baker University Center Ballroom with three panel discussions on the relationship between religion and violence.

From 9:30 a.m. to noon, University of Chicago Professor of Islamic History Michael Sells, renowned Egyptian author Bat Ye'or and Union University Associate Professor of Ethics and Culture J. Daryl Charles will participate in the panel discussion "Religion as a Source of Violence."

From 1 to 3 p.m., University of Washington Associate Professor of East European History James Felak, University of Illinois-Chicago professor Paul J. Griffiths and Wake Forest University Professor of Religion Charles Kimball will lead the panel discussion "Religion and Peacemaking."

The conference concludes with the 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. panel discussion "The Debate on 'Just War.'" Duke University Professor of Theological Ethics Stanley Hauerwas, Rutgers University Professor of Religion James Turner Johnson and Duke University Assistant Professor of Political Science Alexander Downes will provide the expertise.

"The question of the link between 'religion and violence' could not be more topical," Miner said. "The collection of panelists that we assembled will create interesting dialogue because we purposely brought in people with different philosophies and viewpoints on the discussion topics."

The first Baker Peace Conference took place in 1984, two years after John C. Baker, Ohio University president from 1945 to 1962, and his late wife, Elizabeth, established the John and Elizabeth Baker Peace Studies Endowment to encourage the exploration in the means by which peace can be established and maintained throughout the world.

Recent Baker Peace Conferences have included luminaries such as former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and former Central Intelligence Agency Director R. James Woolsey.

A schedule of the Baker Peace Conference is available online at www.ohiou.edu/conhist/events.html.

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Media Contact: Media Specialist George Mauzy, (740) 597-1794 or mauzy@ohio.edu

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