For Bios of the expert panel speakers, click here

For the first event of the Spring 2020 semester, the Kozmetsky Center of Excellence hosted a forum entitled, Exploring Religious-Policy/Security Nexus in Addressing Contemporary Global Security Challenges. The event included providing an overview of the Kozmetsky Center- Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy project on religion and security provided by project directors and perspectives offered by NATO Public Diplomacy staff, and St. Edward’s University faculty in religious studies. Imam Yahya Pallavicini, President of COREIS, the Islamic Religious Community of Italy, joined St. Edward’s University students, faculty, and staff via video-teleconference in Carter Auditorium for the discussion followed by a question and answer session with event attendees.

The discussion explored the importance of religious collaboration with security/policy institutions in addressing global security challenges. The panelists emphasized the urgent need to build collaboration in dealing with the challenges of climate change, violence, war, & much more--promoting dialogue toward peace in a turbulent world. Specifically, the panelists offered the following major conclusions:

● Imam Yahya Pallavicini reflected upon the duty all religious communities to contribute to managing human security challenges. Responding to security issues is not just a responsibility of those immediately affected; it requires leaders and actors from all religious communities to engage in interfaith dialogue, and religious communities to cooperate with institutions. This is particularly important given the vulnerability of religion to be used inappropriately to give legitimacy to violence, hatred, and discrimination. Imam Yahya Pallavicini urged religious leaders to defend their doctrine by providing a counter-narrative built on mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue. Furthermore, he reflected on the importance of these conversations being linked to secular institutions, commenting on the need for collaboration among policy institutions and religious communities in addressing security challenges.

● Policy outcomes are better served by incorporating religious perspectives rather than excluding them in the name of secularism. The panelists discussed the vital importance of understanding the features of religious faiths and traditions. Religion often forms the assumptions a group of people make about the world; understanding those assumptions and respecting them is crucial.

● Furthermore, understanding religious context also allows policy leaders to tap into the existing resources in communities. Religious leaders tend to adopt long-term perspectives on issues that would be beneficial to incorporate in security discussions.

● An attitude of pluralism must be at the center of interfaith dialogue. Given the context of mass migration, particularly in Europe, now more than ever we will be challenged to examine and reexamine the nexus of religion and security. Dr. Jennifer Veninga  offered suggestions on how we can, “bridge the gaps” between faiths by accepting and acknowledging difference while seeing the commonalities and opportunity for collaboration.

Imam Yahya Pallavicini, President of COREIS, the Islamic Religious Community of Italy, via video-teleconference.


After the conclusion of the forum, Despina Afentouli of NATO offered a guest lecture in Dr. Matthew De Santis’ class on International Organizations.


(from right to left) Dr. Sharyl Cross, Director & Distinguished Professor Kozmetsky Center, St. Edward's University; Afentouli Despina, Program Manager Partnerships & Cooperative Security, Regional Coordinator Caucasus & Central Asia at NATO; Father Lou Brusatti, St. Edward’s University Professor Emeritus; Dr. Jennifer Veninga, religious studies professor, St. Edward’s University; Dr. Kelley Coblentz Bautch, religious studies professor, St. Edward’s University; Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University)