On the afternoon of Thursday, 20 April I had the privilege of introducing a seminar at Whitley College co-hosted by the Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy. Some thirty people gathered for the forum which was entitled The Legacy of War: Ecojustice Perspectives on Australia’s Involvement in the Middle East. In the opening remarks, I introduced participants to the Centre:
“The University of Divinity’s new and its first research centre, the Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy has been given the graphic acronym of RASP – the ‘rasp’ imagery fits well with the Centre’s aim of bringing the University’s specialisation of theology into ‘dialogue’ with contemporary issues. It is doing this through stimulating research and engagement activity across the University and by building external partnerships.
“The Centre’s interim Director, Revd Dr Gordon Preece, has worked with the RASP committee to develop a particular focus and thematic areas for the Centre in its initial period. Under the overall focus of Flourishing in a Fragile World, RASP is pursuing projects related to ecology, economics and wellbeing, including the Ecological Aspects of War: Religious Perspectives from Australia project from which this seminar emerged. The project’s key researchers are Dr Anne Elvey and Associate Professor Keith Dyer – Dr Elvey is also a foundation RASP member.”
Significantly, the Ecological Aspects of War project had its genesis in the question, “What if theologians and scholars of religion were to address thinking about war and peace through the lens of the wellbeing of the entire Earth community?”. Initiated through a University of Divinity small grant, the project is bearing fruit, with its reseachers having held a successful conference in 2015, The Ecological Aspects of War, and also generated two major publications, a Bloomsbury T&T Clark book entitled Ecological Aspects of War: Engagements with Biblical and a forthcoming ATF Press volume. The project has transitioned smoothly from its initial ‘home’, the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy, to the Institute’s successor, the Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy. Further, it has won in-kind support from both Trinity College Theological School and Whitley College and this is particularly pleasing, given that the new Centre, as a University-sponsored initiative, is seeking to engage widely with researchers across its member Colleges.
The highly engaging seminar was facilitated by Emeritus Professor Joe Camilleri, former Chair of International Relations and founding Director of the Centre for Dialogue at La Trobe University.
Presentations were made by Dr Anne Elvey on ‘Ecojustice Principles and the War in Afghanistan’ and Dr Deborah Storie on ‘Perspectives on Australia’s Involvement in Afghanistan’. In particular, Dr Storie highlighted that realising a better future called for the development of a “moral imagination”. Professor Camilleri offered a short response and then opened the forum up to lively audience participation. Associate Professor Dyer closed the seminar with a vote of thanks.
I felt proud of RASP’s association with the The Legacy of War seminar and look forward to many other such occasions which RASP will host.
Gabrielle McMullen AM
Chair, Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy Committee