Elizabethtown College features as its 2018 Ware Lecturer on Peacemaking, Karen Armstrong, a religious historian whose books have been translated into 45 languages.
The lecture focuses on “Leading a Compassionate Life” and takes place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in the College’s Leffler Chapel and Performance Center. The lecture is free and open to the public, but tickets are required; anyone who wants to request free tickets may email lecturetickets@etown. edu or call 717-361-4757.
The Ware Lecture is sponsored by Elizabethtown College and the Center of Global Understanding and Peacemaking every year. It is made possible by a generous grant from Judy S. and Paul W. Ware of Lancaster, and sponsors a variety of figures that embody peacemaking efforts. In previous years, this lecture has featured Nobel Peace Prize recipients, distinguished journalists and inspiring political leaders from around the world.
Armstrong, recognized for dedicating her life to peace studies, offers her prerogative on “Leading a Compassionate Life.” She aims to diffuse the study of peace and religious undertones to a variety of people, globally.
Armstrong has addressed members of the U.S. Congress on three occasions; lectured to policy makers at the U.S. State Department; participated in the World Economic Forum in New York, Jordan, and Davos; addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington and New York; is increasingly invited to speak in Muslim countries; and is now an ambassador for the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
Armstrong won the 2008 TED Prize. Her wish asked the TED organization to help her assemble the Charter for Compassion, a document around which religious leaders can work together for peace. In late fall 2008, the first draft of the document was written by the world, via a sharing website. In February 2009 the words of the world were collected and given to the Council of Conscience, a gathering of religious leaders and thinkers, who crafted the final document. The Charter was launched in November 2009.
Armstrong is a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars and laypeople which attempts to investigate the historical foundations of Christianity. She has written numerous articles for The Guardian and other publications. She was a key advisor on Bill Moyers’ popular PBS series on religion, has addressed members of the United States Congress, and was one of three scholars to speak at the UN’s first ever session on religion. She is a vice-president of the British Epilepsy Association, otherwise known as Epilepsy Action.
Armstrong, who has taught courses at Leo Baeck College, a rabbinical college and center for Jewish education located in north London, says she has been particularly inspired by the Jewish tradition’s emphasis on practice as well as faith: “I say that religion isn’t about believing things. It’s about what you do. It’s ethical alchemy. It’s about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.” She maintains that religious fundamentalism is not just a response to, but is a product of contemporary culture and for this reason concludes that, “We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”