UCSB’s Religious Studies Department will host a two-day conference this Thursday and Friday focusing on religious diversity and tolerance to provide greater insight into international religious issues to the campus community.

The free event begins at 9 a.m. in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building’s McCune Conference Room and is one of several similar events held throughout the nation this summer as part of the U.S. Department of State’s “Study of the United States Institutes — Religious Pluralism and Public Presence” program. Attendees will include scholars, journalists, professors and government workers from 18 countries including Argentina, Egypt, India and Thailand.

According to Wade Clark Roof, the J.F. Rowny professor of religion and society and program’s co-academic advisor, the series has historically given foreign visitors a broader perception of American religion.

“They discovered that the situation here is very different from what the media has exposed about the U.S.,” Roof said. “They found American religious diversity fascinating — our many different religions, the degree to which they tolerate each other, and how we try to resolve conflicts among them.”

The agenda also includes a lecture series from UCSB faculty and field trips to local congregations.
Religious studies alumna Amanda Clark said the event will allow students of all disciplines to deepen their understanding of religion in a national and global context.

“I think it’s a great chance for students who aren’t religious studies majors to learn more about religions and the importance of religion on an international scale,” Clark said. “It’s fantastic that it’s a free, open conference and I think anyone can benefit and learn a lot.”