Professor David Kader of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law will visit Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia in June as part of two events discussing freedom of religion.
The first, a two-week seminar beginning June 3 in Sarajevo, is sponsored by the U.S. State Department and organized by The Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies at ASU. The trip will take a group of about 10 Arizonans to the war-torn region to share discussions on "Faith Communities and Civil Society."
The second event is a one-day conference on "Secularism and Religious Pluralism as a Prerequisite for Actual Democracy," in Zagreb, Croatia, organized by the Open Society Institute. Kader will deliver the conference's plenary talk, titled "Religious Liberty in an Open Society."
Kader, who teaches Religion and the Constitution at the College of Law, said the Sarajevo seminar will include discussions of the role religion has played in the country's Civil War and visits to all the major faith communities in the region, including churches, temples, mosques and schools.
"Bosnia has been through hell since the split, and a big source of the conflict is the religious differences, Eastern Serbian Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish," Kader said.
Kader will discuss "Religious Institutions and the Law" on a panel with Dr. Stephen Batalden, director of The Melikian Center, Dr. Zdravko Grebo, a professor of law at the University of Sarajevo, and attorney Ahmet Zilic.
Kader has worked with The Melikian Center in the past, speaking to delegations of religious leaders from Bosnia, who have made two, two-week visits to Arizona in the past four years.
On those visits, Kader spoke to the delegations about "Religion and the Law in America," outlining the constitutional/legal conditions governing the free expression of religion in America.
David Brokaw, assistant director of The Melikian Center, said the group specifically requested Kader because it found his discussion on the First Amendment so important.
"During the wars in the 1990s, the country was split down religious lines," Brokaw said. "The goal is to facilitate and encourage dialogue."
Kader said he does not "lecture" to the delegations about how religion should be regulated by the state.
"It's too easy to be triumphal about the American experience with church and state," Kader said. "We have had extraordinary success. Our country's founders included a freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution. We're one of the more religious populations in the world, with more people engaged in religion than other countries.
"We've had enormous religious liberty and limited religious strife for the bulk of the American story."
But Kader said the American experience has had its shortcomings, particularly the way it has dealt with Native Americans and slavery, and is not necessarily the best for all countries.
"I'm not certain it's a template for all societies," Kader said. "The American model may or may not be useful."
In the United States, despite differing ethnic backgrounds, everyone feels a strong identity with the country, he said.
"Even if we're Italian, or Irish, or Mexican, most of us think of ourselves as American. We have a fidelity to the nation."
There is not the same feeling in Serbia or Croatia, where people of different backgrounds live in the same geographic area, but don't feel a communal identity.
Batalden said the seminar will explore some of the complicated differences of Bosnian identity in such a diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-religious setting.
In Croatia, Kader will speak to religious and political leaders and human rights and religious activists.
"They are trying to develop programmatic ways to diminish the friction and hostilities and move to a peaceful Croatia," Kader said. "Croatia wants to get into the European Union, but will only be accepted if it can show democratic principles regarding human rights. It will be a challenge for the state to show it is respecting human rights and religious freedom."