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UMaine 2008 Camden Conference Class Focuses on Religion in World Affairs

Contact: Marlene Charron, (207) 581-4095, George Manlove, 581-3756

ORONO — The University of Maine is accepting registrations for a unique, interdisciplinary course designed around the annual Camden Conference in February, “Religion as a Force in World Affairs.”

Students do not have to be admitted at the University of Maine to enroll in the course.

The UMaine Division of Lifelong Learning has drawn together five faculty members whose collective expertise will offer students critical insights into the increasingly dramatic impact that clashing religions from east, west and other parts of the world are having on the human plight, world affairs and politics.

Students will attend three Saturday morning sessions: Feb. 16 on the Orono campus, March 22 in Belfast and April 19 in Orono, plus all sessions of the 21st Camden Conference, Feb. 22-24 in Camden.

Tuition costs associated with this three credit course cover students’ conference registration fees.

The partnership between the University of Maine and the Camden Conference began in 1996 and has offered a course around the conference for more than a decade, according to Robert White, dean of Lifelong Learning. The university has also designed and offered specialized courses around the Camden International Film Festival in September and the Pop Tech conference in October. Each of the courses offers deep exploration and discussion opportunities about conference and festival subject matter in unique weekend schedules.

“I’ve done five or six Camden Conference courses and have attended the conferences, and they never fail to amaze me,” says Timothy Cole, department chair and associate professor of political science. “It really is a unique experience, a cross between a town meeting and an academic conference.”

This year’s course at UMaine will explore the role of religion as a potent influence on the formation and the implementation of foreign policy, especially the shaping of foreign policy in the United States as a factor in conflict and crisis settings, as a central component in the deepening clash between self-identities in various movements and communities, and as potential stimulus for mediation, peacemaking and constructive social action.

In addition to Cole, faculty members teaching the course include: James Warhola, professor of political science; Mark Brewer, assistant professor of political science; Kyriacos Markides, professor of sociology; and Tina Passman, associate professor of classical languages and literature. Students may opt for credit under political science, peace studies, university studies, history, honors or international affairs disciplines.

The faculty bring a depth of experience and specialization in diverse perspectives on the world’s religions, and have constructed a course that students, traditional and non-traditional, are unlikely to find elsewhere, says Cole, who with Brewer will lead a section on the politics of Puritanism and how it affects American politics today.

Religion “is one of those issues that continues to both divide and unite the American public,” Cole says. The class and the Camden Conference are expected to bring some clarity to the conflicts among religions, including but not limited to Christianity and Islam.

Class registration is ongoing through Feb. 15. Additional information is available at the Division website ( or by calling (207) 581-3143.

The Camden Conference is scheduled to begin with a keynote speech on Feb. 22 by Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, a distinguished theologian and professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. Hehir is known as a prolific author and speaker, and has served as advisor on international affairs for the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference.

The conference continues throughout Feb. 23 and ends Feb. 24 with a half day of talks and a question and answer session with all the speakers. The full program for the 2008 Camden Conference, which still under development, will be available soon at the conference website (

The following conference speakers and their topics include: Professor Scott Appleby of Notre Dame, “Fundamentalists and U.S. Foreign Policy”; Ambassador Philip Wilcox, Jr., retired, “Religious Identities in the Israeli/Palestinian/Arab Conflict”; Rend al-Rahim Francke of the U.S. Institute of Peace, “The Sunni/Shia Clash”; and Katherine Marshall of Georgetown University and formerly The World Bank, “Ethical Challenges in Global Economic Development.”



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The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
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