Launched: Essential works in the dialogue of religion and world politics

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 30-8-2012

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia

Publication Place



The University of Notre Dame Australia has celebrated the launch of two important contributions to the study of religion and world politics by emerging scholar and respected staff member, Dr John Rees, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations.

The Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society hosted the family, friends and colleagues of Dr Rees last Thursday evening when Associate Professor Steven Lovell-Jones, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, launched Religion in International Politics and Development and Religion and Foreign Affairs: Essential Readings.

"Tonight I have the pleasure of launching two singular works which put to rest a common assertion that religion has no place in international relations," Dr Lovell-Jones said.

In Religion in International Politics and Development, Dr Rees illustrates that the dynamics of religion must now be considered to be of central and abiding importance in the study of world politics. This is shown via a case study on the relationship between the World Bank and faith-based organisations, highlighting ways that religious actors are both included and excluded from the World Bank's development agenda, and by inference, from the policy agendas of international affairs more broadly.

Religion and Foreign Affairs: Essential Readings is a compilation of writings that provides an introduction to the field of religion and world politics. As one of the contributors, Dr Rees has the honour of his work being included among contributions from figures seminal to the study of international politics, including internationally renowned scholars Scott Appleby and Daniel Philpott, both from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Dr. Lovell-Jones noted that the tradition underpinning the shared intellectual culture of both Catholic Universities has left a crucial mark - and continues to do so - in this important field.

Dr Lovell-Jones also commented that Dr Rees' commitment to Notre Dame's community and ideals was demonstrated from the University's earliest days, when Dr Rees would offer prospective students tours of the Sydney campus while it was still under construction.

"For John, his role at Notre Dame is intimately connected to our shared understanding of vocation; specifically, a vocation oriented to serve not only our students, our respective disciplines and also our colleagues, but one which is firmly oriented towards serving the Objects of the University in the pursuit of Truth. This pursuit is an age-old and virtuous tradition, set down for the generous of heart and the tough of mind," said Dr Lovell-Jones.

Dr. Lovell-Jones also said Dr Rees' work has offered insights that are essential to enabling dialogue about the relationship between religion and international policy, a relationship which is so often denied by purely secular modes of enquiry.

"His work is something that can be discussed in the seminar rooms of a university as well as amongst communities of religious scholars," said Dr Lovell-Jones.

"These new works now help to enable these same discussions to take place amidst the halls of the Asian Development and World banks. Can you imagine how important this is? A new chance to present the truth of what His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI calls "right development" – that is; development defined by human agency as represented in the innate dignity of each human person and not solely mediated by the entrenched economic interests of the powerful and influential."

Dr Rees responded with gratitude and extended his warm thanks to Dr Lovell-Jones, the Notre Dame community, and his family, friends and mentors. To conclude, Dr Rees described the study of religion in world politics as something akin to Salman Rushdie's character of Adam Aziz in the narrative Midnight's Children. Aziz sets out on a journey from belief to unbelief but ends up in a psychological state somewhere in between.

"For scholars of international relations, the journey has been taken in the opposite direction to Aziz but the destination is the same, having emerged from secularist thought in the social sciences, the contemporary resurgence of religion in international affairs has knocked the discipline of international relations into a middle place where religion seems undeniably present, yet in ways that are very hard to know," Dr Rees said.

"So it is that the two books being launched this evening belong to the new conversation that is shaped by that simple yet complex and often terrifying question, 'So what?'"

Within this question lies an important lesson, and one that inspired Dr Rees' approach to academic research. "It is better to be partly wrong whilst pursuing knowledge, for knowledge is borne of an ongoing conversation, than to be right in the shallow insecurities of opinion that just want the complexities to go away," Dr Rees said.

"This is why we have universities; to face the hard stuff with patience and to try to move the conversation forward in a knowledgeable way, and in the case of international relations, to translate that knowledge into practice and into policy."

For further information please contact:
Communications Officer, Elizabeth Fenech
The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney Campus

T: 02 8204 4407
E: elizabeth.fenech@nd.edu.au
W: www.nd.edu.au/