Professors Cole Durham and Brett Scharffs, Director and Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, along with Marshall Morrise, the Center’s Website Development Manager, traveled to India to participate with the Center’s honored friend and advisor, Professor Dr. Tahir Mahmood, and other internationally renowned religious freedom scholars in the conference “Religion and Governance in a Secular State,” co-sponsored by the Center and the Amity Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and held 9-10 May 2011 at the Amity Campus, Sector – 125 in Noida.
Participants were welcomed by Dr. Ashok K. Chauhan, Founder President, Amity Group, who said that Amity would like to spread quality and virtues through its students who can bring about societal peace and harmony, and he hoped that the symposium should leave a sustainable effect and that the legal systems of India and the United States can develop new theories and laws, through innovation, self-confidence, and creativity.
In his inaugural address, Professor Mahmood, Director of the Amity Institute, noted that the symposium marked “the intellectual confluence of two democracies, namely, America and India” and reflected that “it is law that deters a state. Therefore, the concept of secularism is gaining importance in societies. … The Indian democracy is trying hard to keep perfect harmony between religion and governance. Today, our hunger and thirst for knowledge has brought us together to discuss and share our experiences on this platform.”
In his remarks Professor Durham explained that secularism should not be a harsh word but should rather provide a framework by means of which people can live in harmony. To this end, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies has organized conferences in Malaysia, Nepal, India, and many other parts of the globe to foster relations between religion and governance and to help build cultural and educational partnerships between countries. Professor Durham noted particularly the Center ‘s efforts under the direction of Mr. Morrise to enhance its Web technology, enabling the building of Web-based legal libraries of international value, as the Internet “works wonders” in bringing people closer.
It is important, stressed Professor Durham, to internalize and reflect upon the ways in which institutions can ignite minds to bring goodness to society in an organized way. Religions remain phenomenally important for societies, and it is essential to show respect for the religions of others, which helps us all in our personal lives an in developing a secure present and future for all.
Professor Scharffs commented upon the praiseworthy dynamism in the growth and development of India and noted that values-based education, as imagined by great visionaries the world over, is essential for continued human progress.
Also participating in the conference were Professor John C. Reitz (Iowa, US); Professor David Pimentel (Sarajevo, Bosnia–Herzegovina); Professor Johan van der Vyer (Pretoria, South Africa); Professor Jenik Radon (Columbia, US); and Mr. Morrise, who presented on the topic Web Tools to Enhance Law and Religion Studies.