Submitted on Tuesday, 2/21/2012, at 4:34 PM

February 21, 2012                                          

AMHERST, Mass. – On March 1 and March 14 at 4:30 p.m., the Department of Religion at Amherst College is hosting two Campus Challenge Lecture Series discussions titled “Religion, Politics and Poverty:  Defining Relationships” and “Greed as a Form of Violence,” respectively. Sponsored by the Department of Religion and the Willis D. Wood Fund, the talks are being offered as part of President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.  They both are free and open to the public.

The March 1 lecture—which will take place in room 2 of the Merrill Science Center—will be delivered by J. Bryan Hehir, the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In addition to his position at Harvard, Hehir serves as the secretary for health care and social services in the Archdiocese of Boston. His research and writing focus on ethics and foreign policy and the role of religion in world politics and American society. He has been a faculty member at Georgetown University (1984 to 1992) and the Harvard Divinity School (1993 to 2001) and published several articles on his research. Some writings include: “The Moral Measurement of War: A Tradition of Continuity and Change; Military Intervention and National Sovereignty; Catholicism and Democracy;” and “Social Values and Public Policy: A Contribution from a Religious Tradition.”

On March 14, Shanta D. Premawardhana, associate general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA for Interfaith Relations and director of the NCC Interfaith Relations Commission, will speak in Cole Assembly Room in the college’s Converse Hall. Before coming to the Council in 2003, Premawardhana was senior pastor of Chicago’s Ellis Avenue Church (formerly Cornell Baptist Church), and during that time was active in the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council. From 1996 to 1998, he served as president of that organization, which currently includes 38 Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim congregations and organizations. He is recognized for his leadership in building relationships across social boundaries that normally divide, for training people in interfaith dialogue and for helping Christian members of the Council reflect on “Removing Anti-Judaism From the Pulpit.” He was also the vice president of the Chicago-based Metropolitan Alliance of Congregations; founding pastor of the Chicago Ashram of Jesus Christ in Skokie, Ill., a Christian community with an outreach to South Asian immigrants of various faith groups; and vice president of the Alliance of Baptists, an NCC member communion. Internationally, he has led the church to develop relationships with churches in Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. Among the honors he has earned, the Academy of Parish Clergy, a organization of Christian clergy, named him 1998 Parish Pastor of the Year.