Najeeba Syeed describes herself on her personal website as a peacemaker, healer and scholar.

CORRECTIONS: The print and earlier online version of this story included incorrect information about the title of the lecture series and about a faculty member at the Methodist Theological School and Capital University.

Najeeba Syeed describes herself on her personal website as a peacemaker, healer and scholar.

It is as a peacemaker that the associate professor of interreligious education at Claremont School of Theology in California and director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding will visit central Ohio on April 4 to deliver an annual lecture sponsored by the Theological Consortium of Greater Columbus.

Her address, “The Death of Civility: On the Birth of Dignity-Based Interfaith Ritual and Practices,” will be delivered at the Alford Centrum at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, 3081 Columbus Pike in Delaware. The 7 p.m. lecture is free and open to the public.

“I think that one of my hopes is for us to think about models for peacemaking that take into account the effects of racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of disparities that exist in society,” Syeed said.

The state of modern politics doesn’t enter into consideration when the Theological Consortium of Greater Columbus chose a speaker for this year’s lecture, according to Valerie Bridgeman, dean and vice president of academic affairs at the Methodist Theological School.

Syeed, who has a law degree from Indiana University and a bachelor’s degree from Guilford College, was chosen for the Lecture on World Religions and InterreligiousRelations at a time when “Islamophobia and anti-Islamic language” was at its height, according to Bridgeman. In looking about for someone doing interfaith work in that realm, Bridgeman said consortium members came across Syeed.

“Dr. Syeed was quick to respond and glad to come,” Bridgeman said. “Academics are not ultimately why she’s doing lecture. She is an academic ... but it’s because of her advocacy, her leadership, her activist work in peacemaking and interreligious dialogue.

“Our choices were not and never are for political reasons, but our role as religious leaders ... is to help set the course of the discourse we have. We’re not looking at this from a political vantage point. For us ... (it is) how do you spark the moral imagination of people who are called to lead people into ethical living and neighborly living?”

“I think that one of my hopes is that interfaith work can help to build bridges and bonds between communities and ultimately, those bridges and bonds can be based on not only religious differences but also across political perspectives and cultural identities,” Syeed said.

Historically, she said, religions have been pitted against one another.

“At this moment in history, we can benefit from our differences as opposed to seeing it as a threat,” Syeed said. “My lecture is thinking through what we do when the differences are stark or one group feels victimized by another.”

Paul D. Numrich, originally appointed to direct a consortium program and now a faculty member at the Methodist Theological School and at Capital University where Trinity Lutheran Seminary now is a graduate program, marveled that the lecture series is still going 15 years after it was launched.

“That’s a good long time, as these things go, so I’m sort of proud of that,” he said. “Over those 15 years, we have had speakers from a variety of religious backgrounds. Basically, we’ve had somebody representing the five major world religions.”

These have included Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and now, with Syeed, Islam, Numrich said.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1