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Closing the Religious Divide  

Photo of Interreligious ConsortiumThe Center for UN and Global Governance Studies at the School of Diplomacy fosters thought leadership and critical dialogue on focused areas of international affairs, engaging scholars and civil society members around the globe, and provides students with opportunities to develop skills that prepare them for international relations careers. As we begin a new year, the Center is excited to further its impact by joining forces with the U.S.-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium (UPIC)

UPIC was created in 2011 as a program of the New York City based NGO, Intersections International. UPIC seeks to increase mutual respect and understanding between the people of the United States and the people of Pakistan through a faith-affirming lens. They do this by bringing together religious leaders, community organizers, scholars and students from both countries to address issues like combatting stereotypes, building relationships across borders, and creating and implementing sustainable programs that improve the lives of Pakistanis. Now, through a new partnership with Seton Hall, UPIC hopes to establish additional academic partners in both the U.S. and Pakistan while becoming a model which can be replicated successfully at other institutions.

Interreligious Consortium (UPIC)Leading UPIC at the School of Diplomacy, is Rev. Robert Chase, a Founding Director of Intersections International and current Fellow with the School's Center for UN and Global Governance Studies. In the interview below, Rev. Chase shares his hopes for the organization and its future here at Seton Hall. 

  1. What makes Seton Hall a good fit for UPIC and how does it relate to Diplomacy?

    As the School of Diplomacy seeks to continue the University's historic legacy of interfaith cooperation and global engagement, UPIC provides a concrete, constructive interfaith model for study and action. A key component in UPIC's work is dialogue with an emphasis on listening to "the other." Courageous conversations are encouraged, not avoided, thereby creating multiple occasions where the differences between Pakistan and the U.S. can be considered. Learning is, therefore, a continuous process in the work of UPIC, both in preparation for and participation in annual conferences. Delegates from both countries compare and contrast life experiences, share successes and failures, and explore how we can best learn from one another about ways to enhance the human condition.

    The UPIC model can be replicated in other settings, especially where the potential for geopolitical conflict is acute. Conducting peace operations using faith-based methods is a characteristic that is rare in the world of diplomacy, but often results in extending the conversation into places where government-to-government dialogues do not dare to tread, yet which are central to the lives of individual citizens.

  2. Why focus on Pakistan?

    Both Pakistan and the United States have deep religious roots and religion is an important factor in social and political dynamics in both nations. Efforts to heal tensions—which often flare unexpectedly—between our two countries would be incomplete if religion were not part of the equation. From a geopolitical standpoint, the U.S. and Pakistan are both nuclear powers. Hence, from the standpoint of military security, it is important to maintain good relations. Once the location of the historic silk road, Pakistan is located at the crossroads of Asia and the Middle East and is part of China's belt and road initiative, emphasizing the economic importance of relations between us.

  3. What are your goals for the organization? What do you hope to contribute to it?

    Round-table discussion for U.S.-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium (UPIC).It is my hope to grow UPIC into a sustainable organization that will continue its annual visits to Pakistan and provide opportunities for our Pakistani counterparts to visit the United States. By "staying the course," we can deepen understanding of one another's culture through face-to-face interaction, courageous conversations and building personal relationships. Topics for such conversations include shifting media stereotypes in both countries, addressing human rights with focus on women's rights, minority rights, youth empowerment, equitable energy distribution and employment opportunities. 

  4. How do you hope to promote inter-religious understanding at Seton Hall?

    There is a long tradition in the Catholic faith of religious tolerance; UPIC seeks to uplift that through example so that others may emulate us through how we live. The goal of UPIC is to bring people of different faith traditions together, not so that we all believe alike, but so that our respective faith traditions are strengthened. In a pluralistic society like the U.S., we have much to share about how diversity can expand our faithfulness as individuals and the interdependence as communities. 

  5. How can students and professionals support or get involved with UPIC?

    A major goal of UPIC is increased participation on the part of American students. While in Pakistan, we have been fully engaged with Pakistani students who have demonstrated curiosity, passion and interest in us as Americans. However, there are significant challenges that have kept us from providing an experience for American students who seek to study in Pakistan. One of UPIC's goals, now that it is based at a university, is to ease these visa restrictions so that an increasing number of U.S. students can visit Pakistan with UPIC. We hope that Seton Hall students will join us on our journeys; our inaugural UPIC trip as a subsidiary of Seton Hall is scheduled for Fall 2019. Students interested in learning more may contact me at UNStudies@shu.edu

  6. What can we hope to see from UPIC over the next year?

    There are three major objectives for the coming year: 1.) to build an administrative, organizational and financial foundation so that UPIC becomes a sustainable program of the School of Diplomacy for years to come, eventually leading to ECOSOC recognition by the UN; and, 2.) to launch this program with a comprehensive communications effort in the this year; and 3.) sponsor a trip to Pakistan—featuring a maximum number of 20 participants from the U.S.—in the fall semester of 2019.

We are thrilled to welcome Rev. Robert Chase to the Diplomacy community and are optimistic about UPIC's future here at Seton Hall.

For more information about UPIC and how to get involved, visit their blog »

Categories: Nation and World


Flickr U.S.-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium

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View the Full Set on Flickr »

For more information, please contact:

  • Gwen DeBenedetto
  • (973) 275-2562
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