Academics and Research / News

Award-winning journalist and poet speaks to Bridges to the Future audience

Eliza Griswold traveled 9,000 miles to two continents and 10 countries over the past seven years for her latest book, The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line between Christianity and Islam (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).

Griswold, an award-winning American journalist and poet, gave a talk about the book as part of the Bridges to the Future lecture series March 22 at DU’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts.

Griswold said her goal was to travel along an area known as the “10th parallel,” where about half of the world’s Muslims and Christians come into contact. She traveled to Nigeria, Sudan, Indonesia, Somalia, the Philippines and Malaysia. She reminded the audience that four out of five Muslims live outside the Middle East, and Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country.

What she observed is that every conflict has some kind of secular trigger and the issues are far more complex than religion. In so many cases, however, governments have failed to give citizens basic necessities and religious identity becomes important because religious organizations and leaders provide people’s basic needs.

Griswold gave the example of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, an organization that grew out of the Young Men’s Muslim Association. The association was a reaction to the American YMCA, which was gaining momentum in Egypt. The Muslim association said they could do the same thing by promoting health, hygiene and the Koran.

While Griswold shared a variety of experiences, she concluded by saying the gap between Christians and Muslims isn’t the main conflict of our time.

“The most important and overlooked clash are not those between Christianity and Islam,” she said. “They are those within Christianity and Islam, conservative and liberal — the argument over who has the right to speak for God and why.”

Griswold has won awards for both her non-fiction and her poems and is currently a fellow at the New America Foundation. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harpers and New York Times Magazine.

Her speech was the final talk on the 2010–11 Bridges to the Future season. This year’s theme was “9/11: Ten Years After.”  

The lecture series’ 2011–12 programming will be announced by June 2011.

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