Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies & Dialogue

Sacred Texts and Human Contexts

 The 6th conference by Nazareth College's Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue and the IIIT Chair for Interfaith Studies again bring together scholars from around the globe to share research on contemporary issues in religion and social sciences. 

Mystical Traditions, Approaches to Peaceful Coexistence, 2021

Location: Casa Tra Noi, Rome, Italy

Co-sponsor: The Pontificio Istituto Di Studi Arabi e d’Islamistica (The Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, or PISAI) in Rome, Italy

When: May 23-26, 2021. Includes visit to Assisi.

Why Rome: In addition to the historical significance of Rome in religious history, the proclamation of Nostra Aetate in 1965 played a key role in promoting contemporary interfaith dialogue. Most importantly, some of the experts who gave intellectual guidance to the Vatican on this historic document were either influenced by, or followers of, Franciscan mysticism. Efforts of Franciscan mysticism in interfaith dialogue go back to the remarkable meeting of two great leaders: St. Francis and Sultan al-Kamil, hugging each other and praying for peace in the midst of the bloodshed.

Why this conference title: Last year’s “Religions and the (De) legitimization of Violence” conference focused on human suffering, violence, terrorism, and wars in our modern world. That conference demonstrated the extent to which humanity is fractured and desperately looking to find peace in the midst of the hateful, violent atmosphere of our 21st century. Our 2020 conference on mystical traditions is meant to expand and deepen this attention to religious and spiritual approaches to peace. Our conferences always invite reflection on the religions’ sacred texts — this time with an emphasis on mysticism and the construction of peaceful alternatives to the current challenges of our violent world.

Mystical and meditative practices have existed since the beginning of humanity. Shamans, prophets, saints, Rishis, Kabbalists, Sufis and others have played a key role in guiding humanity to stay in peace and overcome suffering.  Some of these spiritual traditions have flourished and others have declined over time, but all have provided interesting modes of inquiry into the human condition and connections to the divine.

Mysticism is a broad subject and it abounds with interesting topics to investigate in the light of our contemporary issues. While we especially hope to build upon the topic of our previous conference (religion, violence, and nonviolence), and we always appreciate presentations that draw connections to the religions’ sacred texts, we are open to a wide range of papers discussing the mystical dimension of religion from an interfaith perspective.

Possible Topics for Discussion:

  • The relationships among religion, spirituality and mysticism
  • The philosophical and theoretical dimensions of mysticism
  • The mystic and institutional religion
  • Mystical approaches to sacred texts
  • Mystical orders and their contributions
  • Mysticism as a remedy to violence
  • Mysticism and the arts
  • Mysticism and ecology
  • Mysticism, sex, and gender
  • Mysticism, wealth, and poverty
  • Mysticism, the body, and wellness

Conference Information

2020 International Conference draft Schedule
Conference Registration
Submitting Proposals
Foundational Questions

Administration and Planning

Event Partners
Planning Committee

Conference History

2013: Focused on the role of sacred texts, in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, in uniting and dividing humanity. Selected papers from the conference were published in December 2014: Sacred Texts & Human Contexts: A North American Response to A Common Word between Us and You

2014: Held in Istanbul. Focused on poverty and wealth in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Selected papers were published by Palgrave MacMillan in June 2016: Poverty and Wealth in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

2016: Focused on nature and the environment in religions. Selected papers were published in January 2018: Nature and the Environment in Contemporary Religious Contexts. A WXXI public radio half-hour interview with Thomas Donlin-Smith, professor of religious studies at Nazareth College; Nathan Kollar, Hickey Center co-founder; and others explored how faith influences the environment. Fall 2017 publication by Cambridge Scholars Publishing: Nature and Environment in Contemporary Religious Contexts.

2017: Focused on women and gender in religions. Selected papers were published in February 2019: Making Gender in the Intersection of the Human and the Divine.

2018: Sacred Text and Human Context international conference is on Religions and (De)Legitimization of Violence on July 29-31, 2018 at Nazareth College. More than 50 scholarly papers are expected to be presented on the topic. The Conference Committee have selected 17 Papers for publication. The editing process are mostly compete and we are sending the manuscript to publishers. The book: Religions and (De)Legitimization of Violence  will be in the market by the end of October  2020 and is published by  Palgrave.

2021 Conference on Mystical Traditions: Approaches to Peaceful Coexistence to be held on May  23-26, 2021  in CASA Tra Noi, Rome, Italy. The hotel is just 12 minutes of walking distance from Saint Peter's Basilica. More to be added  soon


Rome, Italy, sites

The St. Peter Basilica

The Basilica is a 10-minute walk from the conference site.

Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel

At St. Peter Basilica, take time to tour the Vatican Museum, which houses some of the most impressive and important historical artifacts and works of art in the world. Originally the site of papal palaces, the museum now is a series of galleries in Vatican City. The star attraction of the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel, created by Michelangelo from 1508 to 1512.

Castle Sant'Angelo

This fortress was built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian (AD130-139), but it has also been a prison and a papal residence — protecting former popes in times of danger. A covered passageway still connects Castel Sant'Angelo to the Vatican. The castle's exhibits range from Renaissance paintings and pottery to antique military weapons and much more.

Assisi, Italy: Home of St. Francis

A visit to Assisi, Italy, shows that Pope Francis' message of universal love has a broad and timeless appeal. To enjoy Assisi at its peaceful best, we will have a group visit on June 10, 2020 as an important part of the conference site visits.