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Rice University
Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance
News Release
Thursday, November 12, 2009

World Religions Lecture Series promotes peaceful coexistence through understanding
Rice University’s Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance
revamps series to benefit Houston community

HOUSTON -- By bringing together new lecturers and educators on various faiths, Rice University's Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance is revamping the World Religions Lecture Series. The lectures offer a basic understanding of world religions to the community in an effort to reduce ignorance and promote peaceful coexistence among people of all faiths and no faith.
Formerly a part of the Amazing Faiths Project, the lecture series will detail the basics of major world religions.
“So much suspicion and distrust of people of other faiths is rooted in ignorance," said Shira Lander, interim director of the Boniuk Center and an expert in interfaith relations. "If we can begin to dispel people's misunderstandings about other people's religions and replace harmful assumptions with accurate facts, then we can begin the road to creating interreligious understanding.”

Ata Anzali, public scholar fellow at the Boniuk Center and specialist in comparative mysticism and Islamic studies, will open the lecture series with a course on Islam from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Islamic Society of Greater Houston’s Eastside Main Center, 3110 East Side St.
In addition to Anzali, Lander has ushered in a new generation of lecturers through a speakers bureau comprised of Rice University religious studies graduate students. The diverse speakers lecture on a variety of topics, including African-American religions, spirituality and yoga, mysticism, Buddhism and meditation.
"The lectures are just one step, though," Lander said. "Understanding doesn't automatically produce tolerance. Developing networks of friendship and community building is essential as well. Teaching about religion is an area of expertise we as a university can bring to bear on helping to create an environment conducive to peaceful coexistence."
The first installments of the World Religions Lecture Series will be held at the Eastside Main Center and, in addition to Islam, will encompass Hinduism (Dec. 1), Catholicism (Jan. 14), Baha'i (Jan. 19) and Sikhism (Jan. 26). The lecture series will resume in the spring at Congregational Beth Israel, 5600 N. Braeswood Blvd., and examine Judaism (Feb. 9), African-American religions (Feb. 16), Zoroastrianism (Feb. 23), Orthodox Christianity (March 9) and Buddhism (March 23).
Individual courses are $12; the entire 10-course series is $100. Registration information can be found at: or by calling 713-348-4536.

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