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Multi­discipli­nary & Innovative Courses


Faith and Globalisation


Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki


Related Degree Programmes:






990-1490 EUR Learn more




Ville Päivänsalo (Responsible Teacher)

Eeva-Mari Virtanen

Target students

This course is designed for students interested in the issues of faith and globalisation e.g. from the perspectives of religious studies / theology, political philosophy, peace and conflict studies, international relations, sociology, history (of ideas), intercultural studies, or the ethics of human development. The course is recommended for students in their 3rd year or beyond.


This Helsinki Summer School course addresses some of the key issues of religion and violence as well as religiously inspired ethics in the face of secular modernity and globalisation. It is designed to equip its participants with (1) a basic understanding of some of the major historical paradigms of tolerance, violence and dialogical justice across cultural spheres and (2) preliminary abilities to take part in the real-life discussion of faith-related conflicts and ethics in our global age. The second aim of the course is pursued particularly through two symposia, an open symposium (selectively) and an internal one. Through writing their course essays as well as through delivering their own presentations and discussing them, the students will be supported to grow towards expertise in the field of religion, conflicts and dialogical justice.

Learning objectives

After taking the course, the students can understand some of the major historical paradigms of religion-related tolerance, violence, and dialogical justice across cultural spheres and they have preliminarily abilities to take part in the real-life discussion of religion-related conflicts and ethics in our global age.

Course format and teaching methods

The course consists of lectures, readings, presentations, essays, discussion and reflection. The lectures and the discussions during the first and second week will prepare the students to take actively part in the teaching events during the last week with the guest lecturers. Some of the more progressive students will be invited to have their presentations in the Open Symposium that will be open to the public, and the others will present in the internal symposium.

Each student will deliver a presentation during the third week of the course, whether in the internal or the open symposium of the course, on a topic that he or she can select freely provided that it engages well enough in the course themes in general. The detailed program of the symposium depends on the number of students willing to present in the open symposium and on whose proposals are indeed selected.

Pre-Course Assignment

There will be some advance readings (ca. 40-50 pages) to be announced and provided before the course commences and some further advance readings (ca. 120-150 pages) during the course. In general, each student is expected to use some items of this course literature in one’s work (presentation and the course essay) and also to utilize some additional literature (e.g. internet articles) that will be provided during the lectures or that he or she is able to find on one’s own.

Further instructions are to be send to the participants of the course in June/early July.

Means and criteria of assessment

Grading scale: 5 = excellent 4 = very good 3 = good 2 = average 1 = poor 0 = fail.

Assessment is based on:
• Participation during lectures (taking into account the pre-readings) and in-class assignments (30 %)
• Presentation in the internal or the open symposium (35 %)
• Course essay (35 %)


Practical issues related to the Helsinki Summer School:  summer-school(at)

Practical Issues related to Faith and Globalisation course in particular: Course coordinator Eeva-Mari Virtanen (eeva-mari.virtanen(at), +358 40 7051121)

Questions related to the teaching of the Faith and Globalisation course: responsible teacher Ville Päivänsalo (ville.paivansalo(at), +35840 5605244)

Guest Lecturers

Dr Maria Leppäkari, Associate Professor in Comparative Religion, is presently the Director the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem. She is the author of e.g. Apocalyptic Representations of Jerusalem (Brill 2006) and (with Jonathan Peste) Hotbilder – våld, aggression och religion (Abo Akademi 2006).

Rev. Dr. Songram Basumatary is an ordained minister of Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church (NELC), India, and currently the Professor of Theology and Ethics at Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute. Songram has written his dissertation on Ethnicity and Tribal Theology, which is published as book entitled Ethnicity and Tribal Theology: Problems and Prospects for Peaceful Co-existence in North East India (Peter Lang 2014).

Muhammed Abdus Salaam, has M.Phil in Comparative and International Education (University of Oslo, 2015) and MSS in Peace and Conflict Studies (University of Dhaka, 2005). His MSS Thesis was awarded by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Fellowship Award in 2007. Salaam has worked e.g. in the Islam Bank Bangladesh, Dhaka (in 2010 and 2011) and published a number of articles in scientific journals on topics such as peace building, human development and religion.

Responsible Teacher and Course Coordinator

Dr Ville Päivänsalo, PhD (Theology), the responsible teacher of the present course, has the title of docent in theological and social ethics at the University of Helsinki, Finland. He has served there as acting university lecturer in theological and social ethics, acting professor of social ethics, assistant professor in global theology, worldviews, and ideologies (visiting Heidelberg for 6 months in 2014) and, in 2017, as acting university lecturer in systematic theology. He is the author of Balancing Reasonable Justice: John Rawls and Crucial Steps Beyond (2007) and Maallinen oikeudenmukaisuus (2011) [Earthly Justice], and his main research areas are theories and theologies of justice and human development. Päivänsalo has served as the responsible teacher of the Faith and Globalisation course at the University of Helsinki (Religion, Conflict and Dialogue Master’s Degree Programme) in 2016 and 2017.

Eeva-Mari Virtanen, M Th, Faith and Globalisation course coordinator and University of Helsinki graduate having majored in systematic theology, theological and social ethics. In her master’s thesis she examined Theravāda Buddhist viewpoint of the possibility of robots, i.e. artificial intelligence, to obtain consciousness, morals and free will. She’s an author and editor of social ethics blog ( and aspires to pursue a doctoral degree in theological and social ethics.

Course Schedule

Location: City Centre Campus

Monday August 7, 2017 
Arrival in Helsinki, registration

Tuesday August 8, 2017 
Registration continues, HSS Opening ceremony & Welcome Party (afternoon)

Wednesday August 9, 2017
Practical Introduction; Approaches to the Theme (4 hrs)

  1. (9-11) Practical Info: learning goals, teaching methods… (Ville Päivänsalo, hereafter VP)
    11-12 Lunch
  2. (12-13) Approaches to Religion, Violence and Ethical Dialogue (VP)
  3. (13-14) Buddhist Identity and Some Issues in Global Age (Eeva-Mari Virtanen, hereafter EV)

Thursday August 10, 2017
Historical Perspectives (4 hrs)

  1. (9-11) Ancient Tolerance and the Emergence of Western Liberalism (VP)
    11-12 Lunch
  2. (12-13) Issues of Tolerance and Dialogue in South Asia (VP)
  3. (13-14) The First Preparatory Session for the Symposia (presentation topics drafted)

Friday August 11, 2017
Faith and Dialogical Ethics; Radical Islam (4 hrs)

  1. (9-11) Christian and Islamic Perspectives on Inter-Religious Dialogue and Ethics (VP)
    11-12 Lunch
  2. (12-14) Radical Islam and its Drivers (group work based on course material, VP)

Monday August 14, 2017
Radical Islam; The Second Preparatory Session of the Symposia (4 hrs)

  1. (9-10) Case 1: Between Blasphemy and the Freedom of Speech (VP)
  2. (10-11) Case 2: Gülenism and the Quest for Power in Turkey (VP)
    11-12 Lunch
  3. (12-14) The Second Preparatory Session of the Symposia (VP)

 Tuesday August 15, 2017
Guest Lectures on Religion and Conflicts in Jerusalem (4 hrs)

  1. (12-14) Religion and Conflict in the Late 20th Century Jerusalem (Maria Leppäkari)
  2. (14-16) Public Lecture: Recent Perspectives on Religion and Conflict in Jerusalem (Maria Leppäkari)

Wednesday August 16, 2017
Individual Working Day
[Time to prepare the symposium papers]

Thursday August 17, 2017
 Migration, Multiculturalism, and Ethics; The Ambivalence of the Sacred (4 hrs)

  1. (9-11)Migration, Multiculturalism and Ethics (VP)
    11-12 Lunch
  2. (12-14) Group works and discussion of the Ambivalence of the Sacred in a Global Age (VP)

Friday August 18, 2017
Conflicts and Ethics in Asia; The Confucian Heritage (4 hrs)

  1. (9-11) Guest Lecture: Religious Radicalism in Bangladesh and Myanmar (Abdus Salam)
    11-12 Lunch
  2. (12-14) The Confucian Heritage and Peace/Harmony as a Goal in Interreligious Ethics (VP)

Monday August 21, 2017
Internal Symposium (4 hrs)

  1. 9-11Student Presentations & Discussion
    11-12 Lunch
    12-14 Student Presentations & Discussion

Tuesday August 22, 2017
Guest Lectures on Religion and Conflicts in South Asia (4 hrs)

  1. (9-11) Religion and Conflicts in the Globalizing India (Songram Basumatary)
  • An Overview of Religion in India
  • Religious Conflicts in Globalising India11-12 Lunch
  1. (12-14) Recent Perspectives on Religion and Conflicts in South-Eastern India (Songram Basumatary)
  • Religion and Ethnicity in North East India: An Overview
  • Religion and Ethnic Conflicts in NEI: Perspectival Reading

Wednesday August 23, 2017
Faith and Globalization Open Symposium (separate programme tba.) (5 hrs)

  1. 12.30 Opening of the Symposium (Ville Päivänsalo)

12.45… Selected Student’s Presentations (t.b.a., with breaks)

Ca. 16.30-17.30: Guest Lecture by Prof. Songram Basumatary: “Religion of Power in Conflicting Politico-Religious Scenarios in India”

Thursday 24, 2017
Closing (2 hrs)

22. (9-11) Reflection Session: finishing the course, feedback (VP)

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