William Vendley began his adult life studying molecular biology, but found science ill-equipped to answer life’s greater questions.
The search for answers led him to study Zen Buddhism in China, he told IVY Magazine, and what his teachers showed him opened his heart back up to Christianity. Equipped with this blend of experiences and extensive work in creating inter-religious peace organizations, Vendley became secretary general of Religions for Peace International and a member of its World Council.
Vendley will discuss his peace-building efforts and multireligious cooperation at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Hall of Philosophy as part of Week Four’s Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “Religion and Statecraft Today: The Soft Power of Global Peacemaking.”
His lecture is titled “Shared Well-being: An Emergent Multi-religious Vision of Peace.”
“Dr. Vendley is one of the most notable exemplars of the ‘soft power of global peacemaking’ that we want to lift up and affirm in this week,” said Maureen Rovegno, associate director of religion. “The organization that he leads, Religions for Peace International, has been in the vanguard for decades in the pioneering of multi-religious cooperation, conflict resolution and societal healing throughout the world.”
Religions for Peace, one of the world’s largest multireligious coalitions, has worked to bring religions together around a shared table since 1970. The group now operates in 92 countries and works closely with nongovernment organizations and the United Nations on projects — like their recent “Faith Over Fear” campaign, in partnership with UNICEF, promoting the acceptance and support of refugees among religious leaders.
“Today the world’s religions are putting problems at the center of the table and discerning deeply held, widely shared care, and they’re being able to align themselves around that shared care,” Vendley said in the interview with IVY Magazine.
While Religions for Peace values differences in faith, according to its website, it also unites around the idea of “shared moral concerns” and the idea that humanity must work in harmony in order to advance. A focus of Vendley’s lecture will be on the concept of “shared well-being” as an emergent multireligious notion of peace.
“We hope, in this week, to bring consolation to Chautauquans that these phenomenal peacemaking efforts are engaging people and nations around the globe beneath the radar and largely ignored by the national media,” Rovegno said.
Vendley has experience in bringing groups together for the common good. He has worked to build multireligious councils after and during numerous conflicts around the globe, most notably in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sierra Leone. At the end of the civil war in Sierra Leone, Vendley was asked to participate in the official peace talks between the government and the rebels.
As an adviser to former President Barack Obama through the Multi-religious Cooperation and International Affairs Task Force of the White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Vendley has also worked in the United States government. Vendley will use the concept of “shared well-being” to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of our current political systems during his lecture.
“Today, around the world, people are able to say we all want good governance, and government should answer to us,” Vendley told IVY Magazine. “Religion is another aspect. Religions recognizes that we are answerable to a mysterious ground of our existence, which we didn’t elect into office.”