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Professor to Travel to Egypt and Qatar
for National Peace Foundation Program

RELEASED: May 8, 2009

Dr. Charlene Burns
Dr. Charlene Burns

EAU CLAIRE — Dr. Charlene Burns, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, will travel to Egypt and Qatar this month as part of a small delegation of American citizens invited by the National Peace Foundation and the Islamic Society of North America to participate in a people-to-people exchange program between the United States and countries in the Middle East.

Burns will be one of six delegates who will travel with a translator and the trip organizer, Sahar Taman. Taman works with the National Peace Foundation, a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of this program for many reasons — primarily because I have personal commitments to nonviolence and interfaith dialogue," Burns said. "I've just finished teaching a seminar on violence and nonviolence in religions, and have done a good bit of scholarship on the issues, so this opportunity to meet and talk with people in the Middle East is literally bringing to life the academic work I've been doing for the past few years."

Taman invited Burns to participate in the exchange program after the two met when Taman visited UW-Eau Claire this spring with a delegation of Muslims from Yemen and Qatar.

The American delegation is scheduled to meet with the Grand Mufti of Egypt, who is head of Egyptian Islam and one of the world's most important scholars of Islamic Shariah law. The group also will meet with members of the Sufi, Coptic Christian and Egyptian Jewish faiths. Delegates will participate in a panel discussion with Islamic scholars in Cairo and visit a madrassa. In Doha, Qatar, they will meet with people at the School of Shariah at Qatar University, the new (and first) Roman Catholic congregation in the country, and the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue.

The exchange program is part of "Faith and Community: A Dialogue," which was established through a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State to the National Peace Foundation. The inter-religious dialogue initiative provides for unmediated exchange among clerics, scholars of religion, educators and community leaders.

The project is intended to enhance non-American participants' understanding of the practice of religion, particularly of Islam, in the United States; provides a forum for examining and discussing the compatibility of religious practice and democratic social and political structures; demonstrates the social benefits produced by mutually respectful coexistence among religious communities and the ways in which Islam functions in the multi-cultural, multi-religious context of the U.S.; and broadens Americans' understanding of the place of Islam in non-American societies.

For more information, contact Dr. Charlene Burns at 715-836-2930 or 715-836-2545.

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JB/JP

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