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Monday, April 5, 2004
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Ohio University to launch inter-religious dialogue project

ATHENS, Ohio (April 5, 2004) -- A delegation of 14 Indonesian academics and professionals will visit Ohio University from April 8-15 to focus on conflict management and reconciliation efforts in communities divided along ethnic or religious lines. This program, part of the Center for International Studies' new Inter-Religious Dialogue Project, is the first of four citizen exchanges that will be implemented this year by the center's Southeast Asia Studies program. The project is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of State.

The exchanges are designed to promote greater understanding and mutual respect among people of different faiths by expanding dialogue on critical issues such as religious freedom, individual rights and relations between faith communities. The project will provide opportunities for participants from both countries to share strategies for responding to religious extremism and intolerance in various contexts.

Project Director Richard Kraince, who spent several years conducting research on Islamic activism in Indonesia, said, "With Indonesia's national elections scheduled for 2004, this is a crucial year for the world's third largest democracy. This program is a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty and community members to get involved in dialogue on important issues of democracy."

While in Athens, the study group participants will attend Easter Sunday church services at area churches, receive an orientation to American culture, tour the Ohio University campus, observe a peer mediation program in the local schools and participate in conflict management workshops with the United States Institute for Peace. They will also meet with Art and Peggy Gish, who have recently worked in Iraq and Hebron as part of Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Drew McDaniel, director of Southeast Asian Studies, said, "Ohio University's Southeast Asian Studies Program was invited to apply for this grant because of our faculty's long involvement in Indonesia and, in particular, our recent collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organizations working to promote peace and reconciliation efforts there."

"Having the State Department award this grant to Ohio University demonstrates the high quality of the Southeast Asian Studies program and faculty," said Josep Rota, associate provost for international programs and director of the Center for International Studies. "We feel particularly proud to be given the opportunity to make such an important contribution to promoting peace and civil society."

A second delegation representing Indonesia's various Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist populations will travel to the United States in late April. This exchange is designed to support efforts by various religious leaders to promote inter-religious dialogue in their communities.

A third delegation of Indonesian Islamic leaders will visit the United States in June to engage in dialogue with American civic and religious leaders on critical issues affecting relations between Americans and those living in Muslim societies. Issues such as religious freedom, multicultural education, and the promotion of women's status in society will be addressed.

In the fall of 2004, a delegation of American religious and civic leaders will visit Indonesia to continue dialogue. A series of inter-faith meetings will be implemented as well as visits to various non-governmental organizations, government agencies and religious institutions.

The Center for International Studies is the nexus for global and area studies and activities at Ohio University. The center's interdisciplinary teaching, research, publications, service and outreach programs bring together faculty and students from all parts of the University. Ohio University established the Center for International Studies in 1964; it was founded on the broad belief that an appreciation of others' values and institutions increases mutual understanding, enriches individual lives, and prepares citizens and students for work in the global environment.

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Media Contacts: Rick Kraince, (740) 593-0251 or kraincer@ohio.edu

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