Professor Roger Alford Spurs Dialogue on Law and Religion at the
School of Law
"In discussing the relationship between Jews, Christians, and Muslims, we all know the issues that divide us: divisions of history, theology, and politics; divisions of violence, broken promises, prejudice, and insult," says Roger P. Alford, professor of law and director of the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies at Pepperdine University. "But there are many things that unite us: issues of faith and hope; history and theology; shared visions and common ethics."
These unifying factors take on critical importance in the study of religion and law, Alford's area of expertise. After earning a master's of divinity and juris doctorate, Alford dedicated his career to connecting with thinkers and leaders in both fields. He clerked for the Honorable Richard C. Allison of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, in The Hague, Netherlands, and at Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C., he became involved with claims to Holocaust-era dormant Swiss bank accounts. In resolving Holocaust claims, Alford was elevated to senior legal advisor for the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland, the tribunal established by the Volcker Commission. He later coauthored a book on Holocaust restitution.
By the time Alford joined the Pepperdine law faculty in 2000, he had built a successful legal career, and had a wealth of experience regarding world religions. At Pepperdine, he organized a conference that illuminated the darker side of religion. Called "Genocide and Religion: Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders, and Resisters," the conference examined religious genocides throughout history. "I was interested in exploring what motivates people to perpetrate genocide and what motivates people to intervene," explains Alford.
He is now at the helm of the Glazer Institute, which aims to pursue reconciliation among the children of Abraham through understanding, dialogue, and engagement. On November 2, the institute hosted its inaugural conference, Finding Common Ground: Reconciliation Among the Children of Abraham.
"We live in one of the most religiously diverse communities in the world," Alford notes. "The only cities in the world that have more Jews than Los Angeles are Tel Aviv, New York, Haifa, and Jerusalem. Southern California has the second largest concentration of Muslims in the country. There are thousands of residents of this city who are Buddhist, Hindu, Baha'i, and Sikh. We hope to focus on the similarities between these religions."
Under Alford's leadership, the institute's initiatives include hiring new faculty members, funding faith-based diplomacy initiatives, facilitating faculty and student travel to the Middle East, and organizing colloquia and conferences. "At Pepperdine, we are serious about our Christian tradition, and that affords us the opportunity to be serious about the faith of others; to respect and honor other traditions in a spirit of civility and good faith."