Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Students to see Vienna’s problem-solving savvy

Several University of Denver students will be getting firsthand lessons this summer in how Vienna has become what some say is a showcase for solving the problems of globalization.

Students will be traveling to the city as part of a course called Vienna: Religious and Social Justice, which is part of DU’s Interterm program that offers classes for students between quarters.

The course will run from June 8–15. Students will examine how Vienna is becoming a home for world religions to collaborate and improve humanitarian relief work.

“Most people know Vienna as an important cultural center of continental Europe, second only to Paris, and as the great showcase over the centuries for classical music,” says religious studies professor Carl Raschke, who’ll be teaching the course. “But what they don’t know is that it’s also the global hub for international development and humanitarian relief agencies — a kind of gateway city for refugees coming from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia.”

Raschke adds that the United Nations, the European Union and affiliated faith-based non-governmental organizations are forging new partnerships between religious and secular groups to deliver humanitarian services.

“Vienna is the place to watch globalization in action,” Raschke says.

Hannah Katz, a junior psychology major from Colorado, took the course last year.

“I had never been to Vienna before and it sounded … interesting,” Katz says. “It was a beautiful city and I am so glad I went. I got to experience another culture, learn about the city’s history, and I learned about many non-governmental organizations, which was really interesting and inspiring.”

Raschke says he chose to teach the class because he’s currently “very passionate” about religion, globalization and social justice issues.

He also addresses these issues in his new book GloboChrist: The Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn (Baker Academic, due out Aug. 1, 2008), which examines the new forms of Christianity in the global South — the developing countries of the equatorial region and south of the equator, mainly Latin America, Africa, and India  — and in the Western world — Europe and the U.S. And Raschke says he’ll tackle similar themes in his upcoming sabbatical as well.

“I’ve always been struck by the way in which Austrian religious groups — Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims — all work together in ways they don’t in the rest of Europe or in the United States,” he says. “They put aside theological and sectarian differences to work for the global common good.”

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