Religion, rights, politics is focus of E.N. Thompson Forum

Pictured are Thompson Forum speakers (clockwise from far left) Robert Putnam, Charles Villa-Vicencio, J. Kirk Brown, Michael Radelet, Felice Gaer and Shirin Ebadi.
Pictured are Thompson Forum speakers (clockwise from far left) Robert Putnam, Charles Villa-Vicencio, J. Kirk Brown, Michael Radelet, Felice Gaer and Shirin Ebadi.

The E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues, UNL's preeminent lecture series, will focus on the theme “Religion, Rights and Politics” for its 2012-13 season, which launches Oct. 2.

This season will examine connections between religious faith, politics and human rights globally, particularly as they may be manifested in various kinds of conflict, said Lloyd Ambrosius, chair of the Thompson Forum Program Committee and professor of history. A variety of distinguished speakers have been assembled to offer Nebraskans new perspectives on religion’s central role in both conflict and its resolution.

“When we look at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and at acts of terrorism around the world, including in the United States, we see religious dimensions to almost every one of those conflicts,” he said. “Even when these didn’t necessarily appear on the surface, religion often was a dividing line between different groups of people.”

Forum speakers will address religion’s ability to unite and divide Americans and other peoples, international religious freedom, the death penalty debate, human rights concerns, and the role of women in religion, among other issues.

All lectures will be presented in the Lied Center for Performing Arts. All are free and open to the public, but require a ticket to attend. Free tickets are for general- admission seating. Fall semester lecture tickets are available now. Spring semester lecture tickets will be available beginning Jan. 2. To reserve tickets, call the Lied Center at 402-472-4747 or 800-432-3231. Tickets may also be picked up in person or ordered by downloading a form from the forum’s website,

Dates and speakers for the 2012-13 E.N. Thompson Forum season are:

Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m. – Robert Putnam, author and a professor of public policy at Harvard University, will present “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.” The lecture is this season’s Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities and is co-sponsored by the Nebraska Humanities Council.

Oct. 17, 7 p.m. – South African theologian Charles Villa-Vicencio will present “Violence, Religion, Financial Muscle and Liberation: Can Africa Heal Itself?” The appearance will start this year’s Carroll R. Pauley Memorial Endowment Symposium and is co-sponsored by the UNL Department of History.

Nov. 28, 7 p.m. — Nebraska Solicitor General J. Kirk Brown and Michael Radelet, professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder, will present the Chuck and Linda Wilson Dialogue on Domestic Issues, “The Death Penalty: Justice, Retribution and Dollars.”

Feb. 4, 7 p.m. — Author and human rights advocate Felice Gaer, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, will present “Protecting the Human Rights of Religious Minorities Worldwide: International Religious Freedom in U.S. Policy.” This event is co-sponsored by the Harris Center for Judaic Studies.

Feb. 26, 7 p.m. — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, the first Iranian and Muslim woman to be awarded the prize, will present “True Islam: Human Rights, Faith and Women.”

Biographical information on each of the speakers is available online at Sign language interpreters will be available at each lecture for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Forum lectures will be available live online at as well as on Lincoln TimeWarner Cable Channel 21, NETSAT 105, UNL campus Channel 8 and UNL's KRNU radio (90.3 FM).

The lecture series is a cooperative project of the philanthropic Cooper Foundation, the Lied Center and UNL. It was established in 1988 with the purpose of bringing a diversity of viewpoints on international and public policy issues to the University of Nebraska and the residents of the state to promote understanding and encourage debate.

— Jean Ortiz Jones, University Communications