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Keynote speakers Religious Heritage in a Diverse Europe

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Nicola Green

Nicola Green
Nicola Green
Encounters: The importance of art in creating and preserving a shared religious heritage.

globally acclaimed artist and social historian, will share her experiences as a witness to historic interfaith meetings. She will discuss her journey making her seminal artworks Encounters , and the accompanying academic book Encounters: The Art of Interfaith Dialogue , recently nominated for the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Religion .

Green has spent the last decade travelling the world gaining remarkable access to private and public encounters between religious leaders including Pope Francis, The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa, and Emeritus Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

During this time, Green took thousands of photographs, and made countless drawings and notes, visually recording what most were unable to put into words. Green realised she was witnessing a new phenomenon: that religious leaders were beginning, for the first time in history, to publicly articulate their understanding and respect for other faiths, without compromising the absolute truth of their own beliefs.

Green combined this thesis and her visual records with meticulous academic research undertaken with Kings College and Cambridge University, deep theological consideration, and forensic analysis of the artefacts she had collected. She collaborated with the religious leaders themselves, ensuring the significance of the work they had been undertaking was documented, and reflected back to them, in a meaningful way.

The resulting artworks, Encounters, is a series of over fifty ground-breaking portraits of the world’s religious leaders. This is the first time in history that portraits of the world’s major religions have been exhibited together, and with equal status.

Each intricate portrait has been painstakingly constructed incorporating painting, photography, textiles, reverse glass painting, silk-screen printing and gilding. The uniquely complex backgrounds bring together hundreds of theologically significant elements. Sources include priceless manuscripts kept in the Vatican and Lambeth Palace libraries, an ancient Torah pointer, a Zoroastrian tile, Kufic calligraphy and a Sikh Kirpan amongst others in a treasure trove of sacred objects. Encounters is the embodiment of the interfaith meetings Green witnessed and an invaluable archive of religious heritage for future generations.

In the context of this journey and her personal experience, Green will discuss the role that art can play in fostering dialogue and how cultural exchange is enabled through the visual image. Green argues that throughout history European identity and culture has been constructed through interaction with ‘others’. Encounters is a visual exploration of difference - how do people of different beliefs, or none, communicate and reconcile their strongly held and, sometimes, opposing views. How do we think about those we consider wholly ‘other’ to ourselves, and how does this shape our own identity?

Encounters is accompanied by an academic book Encounters: The Art of InterfaithDialogue with essays by leading global scholars, theologians and art historians: Dr Rowan Williams, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Professor Ben Quash, Professor Aaron Rosen, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Professor David Ford OBE, Revd William Danaher, Maryanne Saunders, Dr Lieke Wijnia, Dr Chloe Reddaway, Dua Abbas , Jibran Khan, Gabrielle Rifkind and Skinder Hundal.

Dimphy Schreurs

Dimphy Schreurs
Dimphy Schreurs
Co-creating impact

Museum Catharijneconvent, National Museum of Christian Art and Heritage, is initiator of the national project Holidays! What are we celebrating for children aged four to twelve. This project is a co-creation with a number of museums and cultural institutions throughout the country. Together, we develop educational programs and exhibitions that encourage children to engage in inter-religious dialogue with each other. Holidays serve as departure point to talk about each other’s backgrounds. Understanding one's own background and that of classmates, stimulates the process of social inclusion. This keynote sheds light on the way the national collaboration co-creates these programs and presents examples and effects of the various programs.

About the speaker

Dimphy Schreurs graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Maastricht and got her master’s degree of Art History at the University of Utrecht. She worked as a museumteacher and developer of educational programmes in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, as a senior educator in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and is currently head of Public & Education in Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht.

Abdullah Antepli

Abdullah Antepli
Abdullah Antepli
Secular and Religious Cultural Heritage: The Sanctity of Preservation Initiatives

Sacred texts of diverse religious traditions enjoin their followers “To Remember.” Religions, like civilizations more broadly, are bundles of memories, endeavors to hold on to stories enshrined in the collective imagination. Memories and stories compete and even contradict one another. It should not be impossible for multicultural and multi-religious societies that experience resurgence of religiosity to engage in preservation of diverse cultural heritage. This lecture explores how cultural preservation initiatives may become joint endeavors of secular and religious communities. It searches for intellectual and civic frameworks that reimagine cultural heritage in light of the changing demographic, political, and cultural landscape. What challenges and opportunities do recent changes pose to communities and institutions engaged in cultural heritage preservation? What possible partnerships could emerge between secular and religious initiatives, and what rifts may open between them?

The lecture will endeavor to answer these questions from a Muslim perspective, using first religious and then secular lenses. Religious communities in general, and Muslim European communities in particular, need to develop deeper appreciation of secular cultural heritage and endow the organizations and people engaged in its preservation with a measure of sanctity, as they preserve also religious memories through secular means. The lecture will envision how these imaginative interpretive moves may become possible by drawing on scriptural and theological resources. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and the Al-Hamra Museum in Grenada could potentially serve as models.

Secular cultural heritage institutions need to improve their ability to tell the stories of religious spaces by partnering with religious communities. These institutions must transmit the religious and spiritual imagination that shaped religious communities as they perform their secular custodianship over cultural heritage. The lecture will discuss The New York Metropolitan Museum’s and other Western philanthropic efforts as examples. The success and failure of previous attempts shall serve as prisms for imagining new and better strategies.

About the speaker

Imam Antepli completed his basic training and education in his native Turkey. From 1996-2003 he worked on a variety of faith-based humanitarian and relief projects in Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia with the Association of Social and Economic Solidarity with Pacific Countries. He is the founder and executive board member of the Association of College Muslim Chaplains (ACMC) and a board member of the Association for College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA). From 2003 to 2005 he served as the first Muslim chaplain at Wesleyan University. He then moved to Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, where he was the associate director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program & Interfaith Relations, as well as an adjunct faculty member.

He previously served as Duke University first Muslim chaplain from July 2008 to 2014. In his current work at Duke, Antepli engages students, faculty, and staff across and beyond campus through seminars, panels, and other avenues to provide a Muslim voice and perspective to the discussions of faith, spirituality, social justice, and more. Imam Antepli also serves as a faculty member in the Duke Divinity School, teaching a variety of courses on Islam and Muslim cultures.

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Last modified:27 May 2019 4.08 p.m.