S & SE Asia Action Team

Tim Shah to Senior Military Leaders from the Middle East: Religious Freedom as a Strategy against Extremism

Senior Advisor and South and Southeast Asia Action Team Director, Timothy Shah, addressed a high level gathering of senior military leaders on the importance of religious freedom in the effort to combat violent extremism.  

The conference, “Religious Freedom: An Effective Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism,” was organized and sponsored by The Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies, in support of the US Army Central Command (ARCENT), at National Defense University in Washington, D.C on September 19, 2016.

Religious freedom is not only an individual right to be protected, but it is an important contributor to the safety, security, and stability of societies and nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. 

Engaging the "New Critics" of Religious Freedom: Tim Shah Presents New Paper

RFI Senior Advisor Timothy Shah delivered a paper entitled, “Engaging the ‘New Critics’ of Religious Freedom,” at the Fourth International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies Conference. Shah's paper was part of a discussion on Freedom of Religion and International Law. 

Shah's paper addresses recent literature that brings charges that religious freedom is a Western cultural construct being imposed on foreign cultures.

[Religious freedom] does not rest upon western liberal notions of individual autonomy or any one theology, philosophy, ideology, or political doctrine. Religious freedom is rather a human claim. It is conceptually modest yet morally critical, rooted in every human being’s simple yearning to explore and embrace authentic answers to the most ultimate questions, free from coercive interference by others.
— Tim Shah, Engaging the “New Critics” of Religious Freedom: A Review Essay

The fourth ICLARS conference brought together more than 150 experts from 37 countries to discuss the topic of “Freedom of/for/from/within Religion: Differing Dimensions of a Common Right?”, at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom, on Sept. 9, 2016.

The International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies is an international network of scholars and experts in law and religion begun in 2007 with Professor Silvio Ferrari of the University of Milan as President. The purpose of ICLARS is to provide a forum for exchange of information, data, and opinions among members — at present from more than 40 countries — which can be made available to the broader scientific community. 

Learn more about ICLARS and the Conference: ICLARS IV: "Freedom of/for/from/within Religion: Differing Dimensions of a Common Right?"

Read: Timothy Shah and Daniel Philpott (2016): Engaging the "New Critics" of Religious Freedom

Photo Credit: ICLRS  

Rebecca Shah: On Canonization of Mother Teresa and Her Legacy in India and Beyond

In honor of the canonization of Mother Teresa on September 4, 2016, RFI Senior Fellow Rebecca Samuel Shah wrote a powerful, personal reflection published at Christianity Today. Mother Teresa's legacy in the world, her profound acts of mercy to meet the physical and material needs and the even greater spiritual needs of the least of these, has left an impact in the world and on Rebecca's own life and work in India and beyond. 

My siblings and I spent much of our lives sharing our home with the young children whom our mother, Colleen Samuel, had scooped up from various parts of Bangalore City, often in the middle of the night. There was young Asha (a pseudonym)—who was rescued from being the “payment” to a greedy landlord because her mother couldn’t afford the rent—and Sara, sold by her husband to a brothel in Bombay, who arrived at our doorstep dying of AIDS. Not content with serving the poor from a distance, my mother’s work brought our family from a wealthy, middle-class neighborhood of Frazer Town, where my father was an Anglican priest, to the very seedy and often-violent neighborhood of Lingarajapuram. My parents believed that conveying the gospel to the poor meant living among them as Christ would, and serving the poor meant embracing them as part of our community and even part of our family.

My parents’ unwavering commitment to the poor in Bangalore was deeply shaped by the life and work of Mother Teresa. Every day on my way home from school, I walked past Shishu Bhavan—Mother Teresa’s home for abandoned children—and every day, I saw a steady stream of weary mothers pounding on the gates as they held listless babies draped over their shoulders. At once, young missionaries of charity would open the gates, and I would glimpse the scores of children playing and laughing in the courtyard. Through those open gates, and also in my own home, I saw mercy in action.

Read Full Article Here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2016/september/angel-of-mercy.html