1. What are the central criteria for the Boniuk Center to sponsor or co-sponsor an event or speaker?
We sponsor or co-sponsor events that offer a promise of support for our mission, which is to understand and facilitate the conditions that lead to peaceful coexistence among people of different faith traditions. This mission includes an educational component that calls for engagement with our students, with people in the larger Houston area, and with people throughout the world via our web-based materials. Generally, we seek speakers who have something to share ? a hypothesis, analysis, experience, perspective, etc. ? that is of value for the quest for coexistence.
No. The Boniuk Center, being housed at a secular research university, does not advocate specific political or religious positions. The Center has no political position, for example, on conflicts in the Middle East, Kashmir, Shri Lanka or other places. Nor does the Center have a position on, for example, what or who defines ?true? Christianity, ?true? Islam, or anything else of a religious or theological nature.
The views expressed by speakers we sponsor or co-sponsor are not necessarily those of any of the Boniuk Center staff, anyone at Rice, or any of our affiliates. The simple fact of our sponsorship or co-sponsorship does not indicate our agreement with a stated perspective.
3. Why do you host controversial speakers who sometimes upset people?
We do not deliberately seek speakers who will provoke people or whose comments will cause upset. More often than not, however, someone will be offended or upset with the comments of a speaker. Virtually all our speakers upset someone.
As a Center housed at a research university, we are committed to the free expression of ideas in a spirit of honest inquiry and respectful exchange. Short of direct calls for violence against individuals or groups, all ideas may be expressed no matter how upsetting some may find them. Therefore, the speakers we sponsor or co-sponsor are found on all points of the social, religious, or political spectrum. Over time, we present speakers from many different perspectives. We do not seek to privilege any one perspective or position.
Because of our deep commitment to the free exchange of ideas and our neutrality on religious and political issues, our parameters for sponsorship are wider than those of other organizations with discernable social, political or religious agendas. Moreover, our parameters are often wider than those of most individuals. In both instances, our speakers may present views far outside the ?comfort zone? of many individuals and groups.
We invite all interested parties to attend our programs so as to challenge those ideas that they find objectionable. The public exchange and contestation of ideas contributes to the value of our programs and is, we believe, a value to society at large.