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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

"From International Church Diplomacy to Activism in a Global Civil Society"

Mon, October 31, 2011 • 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM • JGB 2.218

A lecture by Dr. Karsten Lehmann (Georgetown University/University of Bayreuth)

During the last two decades, the role of religious organizations in international politics has become one of the “hot spots” of international social sciences. This new interest finds its expression in notions such as “Resurgent Religion and Global Politics” (Timothy Shah) or—more cautiously—”religious actors gaining increasing significance in international politics” (Jeffrey Haynes). Most of these analyses, however, treat “religious actors” like “black boxes”: They admit their significance for the analysis of political developments, but they do not analyze the processes taking place inside of those boxes.

This lecture asks the question: How do religious organizations change as soon as they enter a newly emerging political context, such as the United Nations Organization (UNO)? Using case studies of three UNO-accredited Christian Non-Governmental Organizations (the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, Friends World Committee for Consultation and Pax Romana), it will argue that the UNO-related activities of these organizations underwent a fundamental change—from international church diplomacy to activism in a global civil society.

In other words: In the beginning, these three Religious NGOs (RNGOs)—coming from very different starting-points—framed their early UNO-activities as a representation of Church interests in the “corridors of power.” During the 1960s and 1970s, however, they integrated their activities more and more into the context of what might be called “Global Civil Society.” They started, for example, intensive cooperation with other NGOs, underlined Human Rights ideas inside their own agendas and presented their own positions in public campaigns. In other words, these RNGOs adapted quite rapidly to the emerging context of the UNO—not, however, without internal discussions and controversies.

Karsten Lehmann is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Bayreuth University in Germany, and for the 2011 calendar year a Research Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

Karsten Lehmann is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Bayreuth University in Germany, and for the 2011 calendar year a Research Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

Sponsored by: Department of Religious Studies; Center for Politics and Governance


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