IDI: Interreligious Dialogue Initiative


IDI Event

Upcoming IDI Lecture

Active Non-Violence in relation to the ideas of Peace, Non-Violence and Pacifism

Tuesday, February 2 at 4pm PST via Zoom

Claude AnShin Thomas is a Vietnam combat veteran turned Zen Buddhist monk, author, and speaker who will explore the difference between the ideas of peace, non-violence, and pacifism and a commitment to the reality of “active" non-violence. 

RSVP to; Zoom access details will be available closer to the event.

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A Message from the IDI Chair, Dr. Jason Wirth:

Although the news on Saturday morning, November 7, at last promised a reprieve from the bellicosity of the last four years, we remain a divided and broken country. In a healthier time, disagreements could give rise to productive debates. Now they seem tinged with the threat of violence. This also makes it difficult to address the many exigencies of our time, including the ecological crisis, systemic white supremacy and economic inequity, and the pandemic.

As a Buddhist priest in the Soto Zen tradition, I share, along with the ICTC, as well as members of the Interreligious Dialogue Initiative, the sense that these challenges drive us deeper into our spiritual practices for the requisite wisdom, patience, compassion, and action to respond to our hurting country and its emergencies. We cannot sow the seeds of nonviolence and healing unless we first have the courage to confront the roots of violence, including those in our own heart.

Following the ICTC’s winter theme "The Non-violent Shift," the first IDI speaker, Claude AnShin Thomas, will address the issue of non-violence from a Zen Buddhist perspective. As a teenager, Thomas fought in the Vietnam War as a helicopter gunner. As he confessed in his moving book, At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace (2004), “My job in Vietnam was to kill people. By the time I was first injured in combat (two or three months into my tour), I had already been directly responsible for the deaths of several hundred people. And today, each day, I can still see many of their faces." Returning home from the War, he suffered severe bouts of PTSD and lived a self-destructive and unstable life.

Thomas eventually took up the path of Zen. Bernie Glassman ordained him and gave him his Dharma name, AnShin, Heart of Peace (as well as Angyo, Peacemaker). He has dedicated his practice to non-violence and peace-making and this practice includes a rigorous practice of takuhatsu, Buddhist begging. He has walked almost 20,000 miles on peace pilgrimages, carrying no wallet and no money.

Claude AnShin Thomas learned to cultivate non-violence out of the hell of violence. He, and his nonprofit Zaltho Foundation, serve those who have undergone suffering and traumatic violence, helping them heal and sowing the seeds of peace. For more information, see:

Given the prevailing pandemic conditions, this will be a Zoom event at a date to be determined in February. I look forward to joining you as we learn from this remarkable peacemaker, healer, and powerful spokesperson for ahimsa, the way of nonviolence.

Jason M. Wirth

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Corona Sutra

With Jason Wirth, PhD

Tetsuzen Jason Wirth, Professor of Philosophy at Seattle University and a Soto Zen priest, offers a Dharma talk (speaking from the heart regarding the great matters of living and dying) that also seeks to offer some Zen words of encouragement during the current crisis. He begins with a brief reflection on a line from the Heart Sutra and then ties its thought to the words of Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253). In so doing, he tries to understand how Dogen would also have seen our crisis as a sutra, a moment the study of which can lead to an awakening and a deepening of our practice.

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Past Messages from IDI

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Claude AnShin Thomas

Upcoming Event: Claude AnShin Thomas on Buddhist Non-Violence - Feb. 2 @ 4pm

Following the ICTC’s winter theme "The Non-violent Shift," the first IDI speaker, Claude AnShin Thomas, will address the issue of non-violence from a Zen Buddhist perspective. Claude AnShin Thomas learned to cultivate non-violence out of experiencing violence. He, and his nonprofit Zaltho Foundation, serve those who have undergone suffering and traumatic violence, helping them heal and sowing the seeds of peace. For more information, see:

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Zen and Morning Star with Fr. Robert Kennedy, SJ


Robert Kennedy is one of three Jesuits in the world who answer to the titles “Father” and “Roshi” or venerable Zen teacher. He is not only a Jesuit priest and Zen master, but also a psychotherapist and former professor of theology at St Peter’s College in New Jersey. He is a representative of the Institute for Spiritual Consciousness in Politics at the United Nations. He is the author of Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit and Zen Gifts to Christians. Watch the recording of the lecture below:


The Crossroads Matrix:  Spirituality, Cosmopolitanism and Black Subjectivity in Fela! On Broadway and Marvel’s Black Panther by Saheed Yinka Adejumobi, Ph.D., Department of History, Global African Studies, and Film Studies

When modern European Christian missionaries along with African apostles and converts translated the Holy Bible into African indigenous languages and myths, they simultaneously transmogrified the Yoruba deity Esu, the guardian of the Crossroads, into the biblical Satan. In many Christian communities throughout the Africa diaspora, the Crossroads became associated with a pathological site where a pact is to be struck with the Devil in exchange for knowledge and power; and the potential cost of this exchange is the loss of human lives or souls.
An alternative interpretation rooted in West African Yoruba cosmology holds that the Crossroads is a portal through which humanistic utopian impulses can be actualized. In this presentation, I explore the African Crossroads Matrix as a metaphor for both material and psychological sacrifice, appreciating lessons of the past, and embracing the potential of new ideas, both material and spiritual. These forces, I argue, make the Crossroads a zone for the exploration of future histories reflecting cosmopolitan ideals that uphold more equal post-hegemonic and even post-racial imaginations.
We often take for granted, in contemporary settings, how subjective definitions of spirituality, visions of moral order, and power are reified through knowledge production and the culture industry. I engage with two major artistic productions that reside at the center of the Crossroads Matrix: Fela! On Broadway (2008-2012) and Marvel’s Black Panther (2018), both conceived, funded and produced in North America but with stories, semiotics and aesthetic research done in Africa. These works challenge post-colonial geopolitics, modern global ethics, and Africa’s general exclusion from enjoying the full benefits of its natural and cultural resources.
Drawing on these themes, my presentation asks, who is a full person? Who is Cosmopolitan? Who controls narratives of the past, the present, and the speculative future? How have people of African heritage defined intellectual, semiotic, aesthetic and cultural expressions throughout periods of slavery, colonialism, dislocation, exile and migration? What have they done with timeless exposure to new ideas of spiritual and material significance? Do African-derived spiritual and humanist values deserve more recognition for their ability to absorb new ideas and pervade creative and expressive cultures on a global scale?

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About the Interreligious Dialogue Initiative

The Interreligious Dialogue Initiative (IDI) established in 2012 under the auspices of Mission and Ministry and now, as of Fall 2015, located within the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture (ICTC) aims to awaken sensibility in the Seattle U. community to the richness of the world’s religions, a richness abundantly represented on our campus, and to move beyond mere tolerance to engagement. The IDI steering committee includes on-campus representatives of various religious and spiritual traditions and key areas such as Campus Ministry, Theology and Religious Studies, and the School of Theology and Ministry. Beginning in the academic year 2019-2020, the IDI will be shifting its focus in a new direction. Each quarter IDI, in collaboration with various other groups and initiatives on campus, will sponsor a public forum designed to deepen awareness of religious traditions and spiritual pathways. We hope that these events will emphasize the continuing creative role of religions in a secular age.


Read the text from the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Decree 5: “Our Mission and Interreligious Dialogue.”