73rd Annual Conference

A Report on the 73rd Annual Conference of the JARS

by the International Connections Committee


The 73rd annual conference of the JARS took place at Dōshisha University in Kyoto during September 12-14, 2014. The Faculty of Theology of Dōshisha University hosted the conference on its Imadegawa campus. A total of 622 participants attended, and we owe the success of the conference to the conference organizers, above all the chief organizer, Professor Katsuhiro Kohara.


The organizers of Dōshisha University selected “Religion and Dialogue in Multicultural Symbiotic Societies” as the theme of this year’s opening symposium. Three invited speakers from outside of the study of religion were asked to offer opinions and suggestions on that theme.


The first speaker was Kōji Murata, President of Dōshisha University, a political scientist who specializes in international politics. He argued that religion’s increasing influence on world politics from the 1970s onward makes dialogue between political scientists and scholars of religion of utmost importance. The former expect the latter to provide them with an in-depth analysis of the rational aspect of religion, of the relationships between religion and political/economic sovereignty, of the impact of globalization upon religion, so that they will be able to go beyond superficial strategy studies.


The second speaker was Professor Ryuichi Ida, former chair of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee, and an authority in international law. He asked scholars of religion some fundamental questions he had faced during his public career, namely, how much each religion has formed the basis of bioethics in a particular society; whether there can be common values for bioethics shared by all religions; where the norms of secular bioethics disagree with religious norms; whether the “universal bioethics” represented by UNESCO’s Universal Declarations can be supported by religious organizations and people.


The third speaker was Professor Katsunobu Kihara, who specializes in social welfare studies. He discussed the possibility of spiritual care in the field of social welfare, referring to Edward Canda, a pioneer in the issue of spiritual diversity in social work. While post-war Japanese society has been shaped by the strict separation of church and state, we should remember those in need of spiritual care as a welfare service. He drew on a variety of examples such as support services for homeless people and attempts to reunite families with child abuse history, in addition to the relatively well-known practices of grief care and terminal care.


Their speeches, followed by a discussion with Professor Susumu Shimazono, Director of the Institute of Grief Care at Sophia University, are uploaded to the internet (in Japanese only).


The regular program consisted of 20 panels and 270 individual papers, which were organized into 14 sessions. On the third day, the International Connections Committee held a session on “How to present a paper in English at an international conference,” aiming to encourage the participation of young scholars in the 2015 IAHR World Congress in Erfurt.


The JARS annual meeting now accepts papers in foreign languages, if presented as a part of a panel. In consultation with the International Connections Committee, Professor Kazuko Shiojiri organized the first international panel conducted in English, inviting scholars from Turkey and the PRC. We appreciate Professor Shiojiri’s efforts to open a door for the JARS to international dialogue on a broader base.


Speakers at the opening Symposium and their papers:


Chair: Katsuhiro Kohara (Dōshisha University)


Kōji Murata (Dōshisha University), Expectations for Religious Studies from the View of International Politics


Ryuichi Ida (Dōshisha University), Issues for Religious Studies from the Perspective of International Bioethics


Katsunobu Kihara (Dōshisha University), Social Welfare and Spirituality


Respondent: Susumu Shimazono



For regular panel and individual paper titles, please click here.

(English titles appear on the last part of the pdf file.)