Faith and Values
- How can interfaith coalitions play a unique role in addressing social ills?
- How can spirituality be utilized as a tool for social change?
- How can spirituality connect us across different religious and cultural traditions in an effort to create social change?
- How can we bridge between secular political states and religious institutions?
- How can religion serve a positive social function in a secular space?
- What are the unique strengths that religion and spiritually motivated work bring toward creating harmonious societies?
- What has been the impact of religious and spiritually motivated social activism in garnering mutual respect and human dignity for all individuals?
- How can spirituality serve as a mechanism to bridge differences?
- What tools can be utilized to create social harmony and cohesion?
- What is the role of faith in bridging disparate interests?
- How can education play a role in bridging disputes and conflicts?
- How can interfaith cooperation play a role in addressing root causes of conflict?
- How can principles of religion and spirituality connect individuals across religious, ethnic, racial, and cultural differences to restore human dignity when conflict has created long lasting friction between groups and individuals?
- Ethnic and political conflicts have debilitated our social fabric. What is the role of peace and justice activism in reconstructing healthy social bonds?
- How can personal piety and spirituality be utilized as a mechanism for creating broader social impact?
- How can spirituality and religion serve to reshape perceptions and misunderstandings of value differences in an effort to build harmonious communities?
- How can we work to restore dignity of mistreated members of another ethnic/religious/racial group? What are effective tools to do this (i.e. role of religion, spirituality, education)?
- How can we create equality or equality of conditions in an effort to benefit all groups who are in tension with one another? What are the best means to do this?
- How can spirituality help individuals become more open to concession making in an effort to build stronger social ties?
- What principles from spirituality can help cultivate the suppression of our ego in an effort toward creating social cohesion?
- How can we shift from individualistic to collectivistic cultures to encourage cooperative behavior and reduce contentious behavior?
- What are ways that we can encourage the construction and maintenance of positive relationships across groups with differences as a means of reducing conflict and thereby creating broader positive impact? How can such positive relationships across boundaries be utilized to create positive social impact?
- What are contemporary and historical examples of effective cooperation which we can learn from? What were the strengths of these moments of cooperation across boundaries? What tools and mechanisms did they utilize to be successful? How can we emulate such models? What can be learned from them?
- What is the role of a third party in conflict resolution?
- What is the role of coalitions in serving as mediators? Can one individual serve as an effective mediator or are coalitions more effective in mediating conflict?
- How do mediators build trust amongst the parties in order to effectively manage cooperation between the conflicting sides?
- How can mediators balance the priorities of conflicting interests in a positive way?
- What are contemporary and historical examples of effective mediation? What are the tools that make these successful instances?
- How can we see principles of spirituality as tools towards creating healthier and more connected communities?
- What benefits does spirituality have on an individual scale as well as for our communities?
- Can spirituality be seen as a mechanism by which we can create bridges between our communities to work towards peace and justice advocacy?
Ethics and Moral Issues
Customs and Traditions
- What are various religious traditions’ perceptions of ethics and morality?
- How can we utilize religious principles as a way to strengthen our cultural ties? Where do religions and culture overlap?
- How can religion serve as a unifying source to create harmony in a culturally pluralistic global society?
- What are varying religious perspectives on death? How can these perspectives shed light on living a conscientious life filled with purpose through social engagement?
- What are the emotional repercussions of teen pregnancy on both teen parents?
Drug and Alcohol
- What is the impact of prescribing medication for challenges such as ADD and ADHD? How has the proliferation of prescription medication affected young people?
- Drug related violence amongst youth causes significant damage to both the youth as well as their communities. How can we cope with such struggles and what measures can we take to reduce drug related violence? Are there other areas which we need to focus our attention to in order to strengthen preventative measures?
- How does substance abuse impact the physical and social development of youth? What factors are significant in ameliorating substance abuse amongst youth? What is the role of families, communities, and schools?
Youth with Ideals
- Youth are the investment of our societies, carrying on cultural traditions and values and shaping the future of our communities. How does our culture and faith traditions shape both the values of youth and expectations of them? What kind of ideals and values does our culture and faith traditions desire to inculcate within our youth and pass down to them?
- What mechanisms within society impact how our cultural and faith based values are passed down to and interpreted by youth? What is the role of the media and education in impacting this?
- What are shifting values within our society that impact how youth are shaped? What is the context that produces such changes in values?
- How does our economic structure and values of modernity such as liberalism impact which cultural values are emphasized and prioritized for our younger generations? How has a shift to more individualistic focused societies impacted what kinds of values are prioritized amongst youth?
- How have the values and morals, the attitudes and interactions of youth shifted and changed over time? What are contemporary challenges facing youth that make it challenging to hold on to strong, positive cultural values? What role can faith play in addressing these challenges and promoting positive values?
- How can education be utilized as a tool to raise a more community and globally focused, less individualistic and isolated generation?
- All faith groups and cultural traditions are facing similar challenges of societies becoming increasingly individualistic and isolated. What are the strengths and practices of many faith and cultural traditions that can continue to encourage the inheritance of positive values amongst youth, facilitating continued social harmony, social growth, and positive social impact and change?
Meaning of Life
- Are we passing on a meaning of life to guide youth? What faith based values and universal values play a role in framing these ideals and values? What commonalities can we find amongst Abrahamic traditions in this regard?
- What values and goals do we pass on to youth in their education? How can we see passing on ideals and a meaning of life as a means of creating focus and goals in order for youth to attain self-satisfaction and feel they have a direction to create significant accomplishments?
- What are some examples of role models that create peace and conflict resolution? How can we see the examples of peace justice activist leaders as creating a path for youth to spread similar values?
- What are some examples of celebrities that utilize their position for the common good? What are examples of role model athletes that hold positive moral and family values? Though these are role models who are not explicitly faith based, their moral values and positive life standards reflect similar faith based values.
- How do we select who is a good role model? How does the media and education impact who our role models are? What are the challenges that arise when youth are faced with negative role models?
- Why do individuals no longer hold to strong, positive values when they select certain role models? What’s the challenge that this poses? What are alternative routes to creating and selecting positive role models?
- How does the absence or presence of role models play a significant role in shaping youth outcomes?
- What are the consequences of youth mentorship programs? What tools do programs that help youth build ties to positive role models give youth? How can we emphasize and support such programs? What benefits do such programs bring to the community? How can we strengthen, and increase such programs?
- What are modern challenges that hurt the family environment? How can we support our families to stay together? How can we create more peaceful family environments? How can faith traditions and values of other cultures support our modern family and how can we incorporate these values to strengthen our families?
- How does the development and extension of technology challenge or enhance the connectedness of families?
- What are some historically successful practices that we should revive to support our families? How do other faith traditions play a role to support this?
Marriage and Divorce
- How can religion serve as a vehicle towards building healthier families? What are issues relating to the courtship and dating process that impact marriages? In the Muslim tradition, family involvement often secures the environment. What are the side effects of short relationships and of sexual abuse that may occur in such spaces? How do different cultures add to creating a more positive environment to cultivate healthy relationships?
- With a rising rate of divorce, what are common issues faced that cause this?
- What role does culture play in shaping the nature of our relationships?
- As a whole, how can we challenge and produce healthy alternative modes to build stronger relationships? What historical changes have caused the challenges our families face today and what historical responses can we look to as positive examples for resolving such challenges?
- How can we see the role of an individual’s engagement with their religion as a means of self-improvement? What can we learn from this in different faith traditions?
- For individuals living in authoritative or dictatorship shaped societies, they may become too reliant on charismatic leaders or feel too restricted and not believe in their free will, and may not take action to create positive change. On the other hand, in more democratic societies, there is a heavy focus on free will. How can we find a balance between the notion of relying heavily on destiny to the point of not having agency and having the agency to create change but losing sight of the divine? How can we find a balance between free will and being dependent on God? What is the impact of being lost without a focused purpose?
- What are concepts in religion that help individuals be motivated towards self-improvement? What is the role of principles such as viceregency and stewardship?
- What causes individuals to lose sight of the significance of being responsible to the Earth and its creations, even though we are not directly dictated by others to do so?
- What is the nature of a revival of religious consciousness in communities? There has been an increase in the revival of religious consciousness in secular societies. What is the impact of an increase in religious consciousness on a secular state? What is the impact of a rise in civic engagement, particularly in nonprofit/charity work?
- What are the dynamics of national and transnational loyalties and identities? How can these help or hinder social progress towards broader global goals?
- What can the history of Islamic civilizations in non-Middle Eastern contexts (i.e. Spain) teach us about religious pluralism as well as bridging culture and religion?
- In considering the politicization of religion, how is Islam utilized to justify corruption and individuals follow certain actions because they are dictated by charismatic leaders?
- What is the role of religion in tying the community together, creating common positive social goals, giving individuals a higher purpose, and incorporating positive moral standards/values into our norms?
- How do the different versions of secularism compare in order to address the politicization of religion? How can we create a good model to encourage religious freedom? How does this create harmonious societies?
- Religion is sometimes seen as a threat to standards of modernity and the advancements of modernity. Why is such a false fear created? What are the root causes of it?
- How can we address and acknowledge these concerns and see things not only from your own religious perspective but also be open to understanding things from the perspective of those who hold a different religion and are seeking their rights toward religious freedom?
- What is religious identity? What is cultural identity? How can the cultural expression of your religion change depending on the context you’re living in without meaning that individual is changing their religion? Some individuals may become isolated, turning to their religious community as a refuge saving them from “evils” of this culture, but they lose the second generation as the second generation reacts to this restrictive environment which is not open to their culture. In this split, religion doesn’t represent their identities or values anymore. What alternative model can be suggested to keep the essentials of religious identity but incorporating the cultural practices of the host society? What are criteria to make that a symbiotic relationship?
Charity and Philanthropy
- Charity and philanthropy are fundamental values shared by different faith traditions. How do different communities understand and practice charity and philanthropy? How does charity encourage self-sacrifice, positive work, and creating a positive impact?
- What are the similarities and differences between a western understanding of philanthropy and the Islamic tradition of waqf (setting aside money for a specific community service project)?
- In Islam, there is a religious tradition that encourages giving back to the community through knowledge and charity in a way that its impact continues to bring benefit to others even after your death, thus serving as a means to continue garnering good deeds. What are the motivations in different religious traditions for giving charity? How do other faith traditions support the value of charity?
- How can we utilize the values of charity and philanthropy in Muslim communities to revive grassroots movements? In many countries, people have the autonomy and capability to create and control our own organizations and institutions. How can we empower communities to take advantage of this autonomy to make their own contributions? How can we empower communities to be independent in initiating change and creating an impact by giving back to society?
- What should be some of the fundamental values that shape social movements? What values are shared between social movements?
- What are the strengths of these movements? How do these movements contribute to creating healthier, improved societies? What can be learned from them?
- Consider social movements that are often seen as a challenge for the well-being of our global community. How can we understand the role of these movements? What motivated the creation of these movements? What are the possible consequences of such movements? How can we effectively address the challenges that these “negative” movements pose to social harmony?
- What is the relationship between global social movements with both their local government and their national community?
- In considering social movements, what are the core values that shape these movements? What role does education and charity as base values play in shaping these movements? What are some of the social movements that effectively utilize education and charity as a means of creating positive social impact?
- What is the contribution of different institutions initiated by social movements in different countries? How do these institutions play a role in local issues and conflicts in the varying contexts they inhabit?
- How can we encourage community members who are not fully integrated into social and political life to increase their civic engagement as a means of self-empowerment as well as community building?
- How can we address disparities minorities face in civic life and engagement? How can we work towards building cohesive communities that empower minorities?
- How are minorities in countries used as a scapegoat for external involvement from foreign powers? What is the impact of foreign governments utilizing minorities as an excuse for their intervention in another country’s internal affairs.
- What kind of challenges are the minorities facing in our respective countries to hold true to their identity but also engage with the larger community? The promotion of a melting pot model in countries like the United States asks individuals to sacrifice some of the richness of their own identity. What would be a more productive salad bowl model which would encourage the maintenance of some aspects of an individual’s background as well as their successful incorporation into the larger society?
Public and Global Affairs
- Globalization in many cases promotes an open market, the perpetuation of capitalism, and a steady flow of exchange of goods to and from countries with open borders. The advancement of modern technologies, with the proliferation of the internet and telecommunications adds to the conception of a global village. How do different societies respond to this open society, global village? What is the impact of our globalized open society in which the actions of one country may be discussed and assessed by other countries?
- How does this shift towards a global village impact different countries depending on their own social and economic situation? How are first and third world countries impacted by this shift towards a more closely connected global community?
- What is the impact of living in a global society? How does a global society impact individual societies in regards to maintaining their own values as well as exporting their values? If a society does not have very well-defined values, how will the global community impact individuals within such a society? If you cannot express your own values in a way to be strong and expressive to others, then your voice will be silenced in the diversity of perspectives and influences present. What is the impact of a global community in shaping which voices are seen as authoritative and which values and principles are emphasized as moral and which are deemed backwards and incongruent with global values?
- Often times, culture and religion can become conflated such that parsing them apart can be challenging and cultural norms can be misunderstood as being from religion. What does it mean to hold on to certain cultural values and traditions? How do you respond to the challenge of negotiating a proper balance between religion and culture?
- How do we define ourselves with universal values in religion instead of very specific practices? Practices and values can often be very different, thus how do we define ourselves in terms of our values or our practices? If we focus on values, we can build value based relationships; however, if we define ourselves strictly in terms of practice, it can limit our engagement with other communities. How can we utilize a value based model to create an inclusive, positive social space?
- Globalization poses a unique challenge in narrowing identities as being based on more than just values. What are the strengths in a country defining itself on a value based model instead of a focus on national or ethnic identity? How does such a model promote a greater embracing of diversity? What are the benefits of such an approach?
- How do the increasing nationalistic tendencies in Europe as a result of inner conflicts stemming from the multiplicity of traditions impact global engagement?
- What are the varying codes of human rights in a secular context, in a religious context, and in Eastern cultural traditions? How do these understandings overlap with one another? What can we learn from what is defined as basic human rights in these varying contexts?
- How can we understand how human dignity is defined in a religious context? Are there overlaps with understandings of human dignity in a secular context? How can we apply secular understandings of human rights to spiritual understandings? What is the relationship between these two?
- What can historical examples of democratic states teach us about effective models of democracy? What can historical examples of the relationship between Islam and democratic states teach us?
- In considering various values of democracy in differing contexts, how do these values contribute to healthy societies? Compare and contrast varying principles of democracy in different democratic states, what are the strengths and weaknesses?
- Islam is often misunderstood as being incompatible with democracy. What is the relationship between Islam and democracy? How are the two related with one another?
- Democracy serves to create a healthy society. How can we advance democracy to different realms to be a more open concept? What can we incorporate components of spirituality and an understanding of the hereafter to bridge the misconceptions of incompatibility of Islam and democracy?
- What are the impacts of colonization on the relationship between secularism and democracy in various countries? How does this impact social relations and civil society?
- In some countries, governments are often structured as centralized powers centered around the authority of one individual. How can societies become empowered to spread power beyond a centralized authority of one individual? How can local authorities and voices serve to balance centralized powers?
- How can civic movements function in a democratic culture? What functions do they serve? Are there any good models in Muslim majority societies?
- How can we see other institutions such as universities and the media as playing a role in maintaining the checks and balances of a democracy?
- What are the challenges that arise when the government oversteps separations between religion and state?
- What is the relationship between the military industrial complex and the “war on terror”?
- How can we see nuclear power in a positive light? In considering its potential for use as a means of producing electricity, what are the potential benefits of nuclear power? Is nuclear power a threat or a benefit in general for human society? How do we strike a balance between its potential for benefit and the risks associated with it?
Political Violence and Terrorism
- What is the role of social activists in antiwar and peace movements?
- Islam and many issues related to Islam are often politicized. How can the politicization of Islam and generally of religion be misused in different contexts? How do individuals justify political violence and terrorism in a religious or cultural context? What are the implications of such a conflation?
- Often the religious identities of terrorists are what is paid attention to. How can we look to the social environment which created those terrorists and make the distinction clear between the social environment and the ethnic, religious, and cultural identities affiliated with terrorists? Often, it is harsh social environments and not a natural disposition which causes individuals to enter such a path. How can we make this distinction clear? What is the impact of misconstruing cultural and religious identities as inherently promoting terrorism?
- Religion is politicized in several ways. Often times, religious texts are misused to justify negative actions and fundamentalism. How do religious texts get misused in different faith traditions? Why does this happen? What is the impact of this for their religious communities?
- How does radicalism utilize religion as a political tool to achieve their own goals?
- What are the characteristics of an environment that creates that political tension, violence and terrorism? What are root causes in terms of social environments that create such political violence? How does poverty, social conflict, and ignorance add to such fraught environments?
- Do Christianity, Islam and Judaism condone violence?
- Do people abuse religion to justify their violent tactics?
- Is religion the source or victim of extremism?
- How do the Abrahamic Religions approach conflict resolution?
Religion and Politics
Separation of Religion & State
- What is the role of the state in religion? How does the French model of secularism compare to the American model of secularism? What is the impact of both models on religious communities?
- What is the impact of politicizing individual religious observance? How has the headscarf become a politicized symbol to advance certain political agendas? How does this impact our communities? What can we learn from the cases of the politicization of the headscarf?
- How does the headscarf contribute to the racialization of Muslims in different countries? How does this create a gendered experience of discrimination amongst Muslim women?
- How does the headscarf contribute to building a Muslim identity amongst women?
- How is modesty practiced in faith traditions through clothing? What are different practices in other faith traditions that promote modesty?
- What is an ideal state model that promotes religious freedom? What is a positive model to promote religious pluralism? How does the promotion of religious freedom enhance inter-religious engagement? What is the benefit of inter-religious engagement? what are the obstacles to obtaining religious freedom and pluralism?
- How is religious freedom conceived of in the USA and Europe? While it’s considered a threat for a secular state in some contexts, religious freedom has a lot of connotations, how have historical experiences contributed to our understanding of religious freedom?
- In considering dominant cultures and minorities, in a culture where some religions are dominant, the values from that dominant religion often influences and shapes the public sphere. How can we be aware of religious minorities and be open and inclusive societies that are both cognizant of the influence of these religious values while creating space for alternative perspectives?
- In what ways has colonialism and the Western invasion of Muslim majority countries affected religious tolerance in Muslim majority societies such that colonizers become synonymous with Christians? How does the colonial experience affect Muslim-Christian relations?
Places and Regions
- How has the collective memory of the Turkish political state impacted social relations? Who are the social entrepreneurs responsible for shaping this collective memory? What is the role of social movements in shaping a new collective memory that is more broadly inclusive?
Press Freedom & Democracy
- How is social media impacting the nature of political and civic engagement?
- How does media censorship impact democratic societies?
- What is the importance of promoting freedom of the press? How do limitations on the freedom of the press impact citizen’s relationships with the government? Is it necessary to place limits or regulations on the media or should there be absolute freedom?
- How is social media shaping global trends and global perceptions? How is social media becoming influential in organizing people and movements?
- What is the moral responsibility of the media in their reporting? How do we strike a balance in what is highlighted or remains absent in reporting? What is the role of the media in a democratic state?
- How can the media serve to both unite and divide society?
Minority Representation in Media
- How can we mitigate the negative impacts of the media?
- How are minorities represented within the media? How are minority communities impacted by skewed representations in the media?
- What are the consequences of overemphasizing only certain kinds of portrayals of minorities in the media? How does media discourse around minorities shape our perceptions and beliefs? What are the consequences of this?
Science and Religion
- What is the religious perspective of religion and science’s relationship from different faith traditions?
- What are some of the challenges people face with their religious identity and scientific identity and the tension in having to choose between them?
- How we can make a clear distinction between science and religion? how can we see the relationship between religion and science as meaningful and not threatening to each other while respecting each?
Energy and the Environment
- What is our role in being stewards of the environment?
- How can we see the relationship between a healthy environment and a healthy community? What are best practices to ensure that we are being environmentally conscious?
- What does stewardship mean in a religious and secular context? Stewardship in Islam has a connotation of being a vicegerent. What are other faith traditions understandings of caring for the environment/stewardship?
- What do various religious traditions teach us about creating safe, inclusive social spaces? Are any groups excluded in the prerogative of equal rights?
- What do various religious traditions teach us about gender equality? How can the conflation of religion and culture create misconceptions about gender equality? What are principles within various religious traditions that counter misconceptions within culture about gender equality?
- An income gap still persists between men and women, such that women make less per dollar than men. Why does income inequality persist? How can our communities address this disparity?
- Despite a rise in women obtaining higher education at increasing rates over men, occupational inequality persists. What is the social impact of this? How can we address such issues? What is the role of education in bridging the income gap between men and women?
- What can we learn from various religious traditions in regards to the significance of women as leaders and change makers within each tradition? How can we draw back upon religious teachings and principles as a way to work against the disenfranchisement of women?
- In considering affirmative action, how are such policies beneficial to our community? What is the impact of legislation that seeks to limit or take away such policies in different contexts?
- What leads to situations in which domestic violence occurs? What are main causes of domestic violence in different contexts? How does substance abuse play a role in domestic violence? What role does culture play in domestic violence?
- What are social consequences of domestic violence?
- How can we address domestic violence effectively as a community?
- Many faith-based organizations work towards alleviating domestic violence. What religious principles and values are utilized in the work of these faith based organizations? How can we address domestic violence effectively as a community?
- Many faith-based organizations are involved in humanitarian aid work. What religious principles and values motivate these faith-based organizations and their work? What are some commonalities that we find across different faith based organizations in the motivation for their work?
- What is the principle of waqf in the Islamic tradition? How does it compare to the work of nonprofit organizations in civil societies? What are the social realities that facilitate each of these? What are their respective functions in religious societies and culture generally? How do they each create an impact?
- There are often tensions between promoting an assimilation or an integration model amongst immigrants. What are the disadvantages of an assimilation model? What are the advantages of promoting pluralism? What are the social benefits of an integration model?
- Institutional discrimination continues to persist. What is the impact of this persistence on racial minorities? How do things such as residential segregation and education disparities impact our communities?
- Though racism is not as explicit as it may have been during Jim Crow, what is the nature of contemporary racism? How does it impact our communities? What is latent and manifest discrimination? Is contemporary racism more latent or manifest? Does the nature of whether racism is more or less explicit depend on the targeted group being impacted?
- How do racial microaggressions impact individuals and communities?
- What do various religious traditions teach us about positive health and well-being practices?
- What is the relationship between spirituality and physical health? How can we see the two impacting one another?
- Addressing mental health challenges is often a taboo within our communities. What do our religious traditions teach us about the significance of addressing mental health issues? How can we work as a community to address this harmful stigma?
- There is differential access to healthcare depending one’s gender, racial, and socioeconomic background. How are various communities impacted by these inequalities in access and the kind of care they are able to receive? What is the social impact of this differential access?
- How does poverty impact families and family structure? How has welfare reform impacted women and families? How has the welfare system disparately affected women? What are the consequences of this?
- What do various religious traditions teach us about giving back to our communities? What do the models of waqf and zakat in Islam teach us in regards to creating positive social change for struggling communities?
- What are some of the consequences of poverty (ex: health care, housing)? How does poverty impact children? What can we learn from different practices from faith based organizations in regards to addressing these concerns?
- What has the role of religious institutions been in working to alleviate poverty? What are some effective models and practices that we can learn from? What values and principles from religious traditions motivate the work of these organizations?
- What is the impact of punitive justice systems on crime? Are there more effective methods for rehabilitation and reducing recidivism rates? Does our current system of incarceration properly fulfill its function? Should it function to reform, rehabilitate, or punish prisoners? How does the current structuring of the incarceration system and its goals impact building a healthy society?
- What are the challenges we face with our existing juvenile justice system structure? How can we work towards reducing recidivism rates amongst youth?
- Does stricter enforcement of criminal activity reduce crime rates?
- What are effective crime prevention strategies and policies? How can community organizations play a role in building healthier communities?
- How can we address disparities in the differential treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system as well as by police officers? What measures can be taken to reduce the disparate impact of policing measures on minority communities?