Gratitude and Blessings: Looking Forward to the Year Ahead

Newsletter of 25 January 2010

Greetings to our friends around the world, from all of us here at the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University! As we take this opportunity to recall important events and accomplishments, we send warmest wishes to all of you for an even brighter new year to come.
      This month marks ten years since the official launch of the Center in January 2000, following upon another decade of laying groundwork, making contacts, and organizing conferences through the Law School. As you will read about in the Director’s message below, it has been a remarkable decade in so many ways, largely because of the associations we have enjoyed with all of you.
      We closed the decade with a year of many important accomplishments, including significant recognitions and awards, important website upgrades, key Center personnel returning and arriving, and a number of extremely successful conferences both here in Provo and in many other parts of the world. During 2009 we have experienced a huge outpouring of effort and support from volunteers—Fellows, members of our International Advisory Council, Symposium hosts, students, and many other friends—whose contributions ensure that we are able to press forward. We express our deepest gratitude for these efforts, for the influence and input of our distinguished Academic Advisory Board, and for the generous support of many other individuals and foundations who continue, despite difficult worldwide economic conditions, to offer expertise, advice, time, and means to make our ongoing work possible.
     As we prepare for the first Center-sponsored conference of 2010, to take place at the end of January in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we recall the first important Center event of 2009—the bestowal upon Director W. Cole Durham, Jr. on January 15 of the International First Freedom Award, acknowledging the significance of his work in advancing freedom of conscience and belief and basic human rights for people from all faiths, cultures, and traditions. We were pleased nine months later to award the 2009 Distinguished Service Award for Religious Freedom to another tireless supporter of religious freedom, our friend Senior Judge J. Clifford Wallace of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who has crowned his distinguished career with travel to every continent of the world in the cause of democracy and human liberty, teaching and in many other ways serving those seeking to establish the rule of law worldwide.
     Among the outstanding Center events of 2009 was the 16th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium, considered by many to be the best to date, as more than 80 scholars from 44 countries gathered in Provo in October to “connect communities of discourse,” discussing how the judiciary, academia, government, and international institutions further the work of religious freedom. Throughout the year, the Center sponsored and its personnel has participated in a great many other important conferences and events concerning freedom of conscience and belief in all parts of the world, including Milan, Moscow, Kathmandu, Budapest, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Jakarta, Canberra, Silver Spring, Salt Lake City, New York City, Amman, Bratislava, Volgograd, and Santiago. In the coming year we anticipate that Center representatives will travel to Ghana, Italy, England, Hungary, Washington, D.C., Dominican Republic, Lima, Blagoveshchensk, Moscow, and Kiev. In March, Professor Durham will travel to Geneva to address defamation of religion at an international Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance, and Democracy, held under the auspices of Vaclav Havel and and Lech Walesa.  
     As 2010 begins, we are poised to make significant forward strides, with greatly enhanced online resources and the support of an ambitious Fellows program that we hope will bring about a dramatic increase in our effectiveness as an organization and in the reach of our influence for good. We invite you to visit our websites frequently and to view our newsletters, to read of our work and our plans, to find resources to help in your own endeavors, to enter into community with others, and to discover ways in which you might participate, or continue to participate, in this important work, ever more urgent in our troubled world.  
     As always, we thank you for all you do. We look forward to another year of shared endeavor.

Sincerely yours,

Robert T. Smith, Managing Director
International Center for Law and Religion Studies
J. Reuben Clark Law School
Brigham Young University