A Call for Faculty and Student Papers for an April 2021 Zoom Seminar:
Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, White Supremacy and US Culture: The Call for Interfaith “Upstanding”

The Tom Porter Program on Religion and Conflict Transformation
Boston University School of Theology

Incidents of Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have increased in the US during the Trump presidency, and continue to threaten individuals, communities of faith, and our democratic values of mutual respect and equality. The rise of white supremacy and nationalism has been tolerated and even encouraged by our current administration, enabling a growing culture of hate and racism in the US. 

A Bystander is a“ nonparticipant, observer, spectator, eyewitness, witness, watcher, gawker” (Oxford Dictionary) The term “upstander” was recently added to the Oxford Dictionary;  “A person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.”  Boston’s “Facing History and Ourselves’ program has been training students to resist bystanding and engage in upstanding in order to “create a more humane, just and compassionate world.” (www.FacingHistory.org)

Bystander/Upstander programs have primarily focused on youth, thus there are few opportunities for current and future leaders of faith communities, community activists and concerned lay leaders of all faiths to receive this framework and training.  These leaders are uniquely positioned to engage and reverse attitudes in our communities that have led to such destructive and sometimes violent actions.  An understanding of the current volatile context, as well as strategies and skills needed for interfaith “upstanding” are desperately needed. 

We envision a series of three seminars, each 2-4 hours.  The first would create a historical and current relationship between white nationalism, Anti -Semitism and Islamophobia.  (2 hours) The second would establish theoretical and theological frames for “upstanding” and the need for an Interfaith prophetic voice of justice in addressing white nationalism, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. (2 hours) The third would be a skills workshop in facilitating dialogue and community organizing that shifts faith communities from bystanding to upstanding. (4 hours)

This program is funded by the Jewish Cultural Endowment of The Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies,  Boston University and organized by the Tom Porter Religion and Conflict Transformation Program (RCT) at the BU School of Theology.

The Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (CURA) at the Pardee School of Global Studies, BU, is providing stipends ($500 each) for four faculty papers that will be selected to present at one of the seminars.  Faculty papers should be 4,500 -5,000 words and paper presentations 20 to 25 minutes.

The Boston Theological Interfaith Consortium (BTI) is providing stipends ($250 each) for four student papers that will be selected to present at one of the seminars.  Student papers should be 2,500- 3,000 words and paper presentations about 15 minutes.

There are two subject areas for paper submissions:

  1. We are seeking faculty and student papers on the relationship between Anti-Semitism or Islamophobia and white supremacy in US culture.  Papers could address one of the following suggested questions:

    What has been the historical relationship between Anti-Semitism or Islamophobia and white supremacy in US Culture?

    What are the more recent indicators of a rise in Anti-Semitism or Islamophobia in 
    relationship to white supremacy in US culture?

    What are the issues of identity, nationalism or religious ideologies fueling Anti-
    Semitism or Islamophobia in US culture?

Two faculty papers and two student papers will be selected for presentation on a panel at the seminar in April 2021. Stipends for these four papers will be awarded after the panel presentations.

  1. We are also seeking faculty and student papers on interfaith theological frames for prophetic witness and specifically, historical and current examples of INTERFAITH upstanding to address Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy in US culture.  Papers could address one of the following suggested questions:

    What are some historical examples of Interfaith upstanding and what was the impact? What strategies did they utilize?  What barriers did they encounter?

    What are some current examples of interfaith upstanding and what was the impact?  What strategies did they utilize?  What barriers did they encounter?

    How have interfaith groups partnered with secular organizations to address Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy?  What are the skills, values and characteristics of Leaders of these movements?

Two faculty papers and two student papers will be selected for presentation on a panel at the seminar in April 20201. Stipends for these four papers will be awarded after the panel presentations.

All papers will be posted two weeks in advance of the seminar for all participants to read.

The third session will introduce skills needed for upstanding: reflective dialogue and community organizing and will be highly interactive.

The seminars will draw on the expertise of BU Faculty and students, Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium faculty (to ensure multi-faith voices), non-profit leaders/activists and practitioners in dialogue and community organizing strategies. 

At the close of the seminar series, faculty and student presenters, along with presenters of the third, interactive workshop, will be invited to submit refined and revised versions of their presentations to the Journal of Interreligious Studies (JIRS) for a special issue. Articles would be submitted by June 1 and, after peer review, published by August 2021. The JIRS is a publication of BU School of Theology, Hebrew College, and Hartford Seminary, and is an open-access journal. Publishing papers in a special issue of the JIRS would thus increase the accessibility of the important work being presented at the seminar series.

Timeline for paper submission:  

Please send to Ana Maria Rodriguez Alfonso, RCT Research Assistant      amaria@bu.edu

Paper abstracts due (approximately 300 words) by Feb 1, 2020

Papers due (for posting before April Seminars)  – March 29, 2021

Refined and revised papers for JIRS submission – June 1, 2021

Please contact the following Team members for additional questions:

Stephanie Edwards, Director, BTI: edwards@bostontheological.org

Timothy Longman, Director, CURA: longman@bu.edu

Axel Takacs, Editor in Chief,  JIRS: axel.takacs@hebrewcollege.edu