Annual Forum at Centenary begins February 22

SHREVEPORT, LA — Is it wrong to use religious beliefs to justify laws in a pluralistic society? Can we create an environment in which a variety of religions flourish? These questions and other similarly challenging topics are the subject of Centenary College's annual Forum, which begins on Monday, February 22 and continues Monday, February 29. Sponsored by the College's Department of Philosophy, the 2016 Forum explores the theme of religious pluralism and incorporates a guest speaker, a panel discussion featuring students and local citizens, and guest columns in the Shreveport Times. All events are free and open to the public.

"I think that religious diversity is something to be discussed as much as possible," says Centenary sophomore Sarah Leal, one of the student panel participants. "Religious intolerance opens the door to racism from the moment when a religious practice is identified as the culture of a particular race. We shouldn’t take the easy way of rejection of the unknown, but on the contrary try to educate people and debate over the matter."

Dr. Andrew Fiala, professor of philosophy and Director of the Ethics Center at Fresno State University, will open the Forum with a talk entitled "Whose God, Which Religion?" on Monday, February 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the Whited Room in Bynum Commons. In addition to his work at Fresno State, Fiala writes a column on ethics and religion for the Fresno Bee.

On Monday, February 29 at 7:00 p.m., a panel of students and citizens will continue the dialogue started by Fiala the week before, providing commentary on his perspective and also opening the floor to questions from the audience. Student panelists are senior Kossi M. Senagbe, a biochemistry and French major, and Leal, a political science major. They will be joined by community representatives Randall Lord and Juan Huertas. The panel discussion and Q&A session will also be held in Centenary's Whited Room.

"I'm excited about participating in the Forum because I want to raise the awareness of understanding others' points of view," says Senagbe. "We all should acknowledge the existence of religious pluralism and respect other beliefs. Merging our perspectives with others is the key to accepting one another."

The Forum is an opportunity for students to hear from experts on potentially divisive topics and to draw their own conclusions and express their opinions in a civil discussion. Previous years' Forums have covered topics such as diversity and racial justice, religion in public schools, consumer responsibility, stem cell research, and art censorship.

For more information, contact Ciocchetti at 318.869.5246 or cciocche@centenary.edu, or visit the Forum webpage.