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Faiths in Conflict: Searching for a Common Space

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Date and time
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In a world where conflicting faiths divide societies, often violently, the inevitable question arises: Can faiths harmoniously coexist? Vinoth Ramachandra and Akeel Bilgrami discuss secularism and pluralism from two different worldviews, Christian and atheist. From The Veritas Forum at Columbia University, 2009. Which worldviews best promote coexistence and encourage members of diverse faith communities to engage in meaningful discussion with one another? Is there a place for faith in such a worldview, or must tolerant worldviews be secular and free from faith? Can any worldview, including a secular one, be truly neutral? Vinoth Ramachandra addresses the challenges of pluralism from Christian perspective, Akeel Bilgrami from the secular humanist perspective. A moderated discussion by Dr. David Eisenbach with audience question-and-answer follows the opening presentations.

Akeel Bilgrami is one of the most highly respected philosophical voices in the conversation about pluralism and liberalism today. An Indian-born philosopher of language and mind, Bilgrami has authored *Belief and Meaning*, *Self-Knowledge and Resentment*, and "Politics and the Moral Philosophy of Identity." Bilgrami is currently the Director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University and the Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy. Bilgrami has a B.A. in English Literature from Bombay University, a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago on the subject of indeterminancy of translation and issues concerning realism and linguistic meaning.
Vinoth Ramachandra, the Secretary for Dialogue and Social Engagement with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), speaks widely in universities, seminaries, and conferences on issues of social, cultural, and political challenges in multicultural contexts in Asia and around the world. He is the author of several books on issues such as modernity, secularism, and pluralism, including *Gods that Fail*, *Subverting Global Myths*, and *Faiths in Conflict*. Speaking from the Southeast Asian context in Sri Lanka, Ramachandra provides a thoughtful and important perspective on some of our most serious contemporary issues. Ramachandra was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he lives with his wife Karin. He received his bachelor's and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of London. But instead of pursuing his initial career path in academia, Ramachandra returned to Sri Lanka in 1980 and helped develop a Christian university ministry there. In 1987, IFES, a partnership of over 130 autonomous student movements, invited him to serve as the South Asian Regional Secretary. In 2002, Ramachandra took up the position he holds today.