By: Linda Adebola
On February 8, 2023, a question-and-answer session with Father Nicholas Sertich, the new Director of Seton Hall University’s Campus Ministry, kickstarted a new series of dialogues on peace. This new Seton Hall series is co-sponsored by Campus Ministry and the Center for United Nations and Global and Governance Studies at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations.
The discussion, “Religion and International Affairs: The Campus Ministry Director in the Hot Seat,” gave students a chance to ask questions related to religion, international affairs, and how these two paradigms can together be used to foster an environment of peace and tolerance within and beyond the university community in the global context of rising great power competition, increased threats to international peace and security, and ongoing wars such the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army.
Father Sertich, an alumnus of Seton Hall University and a Rome-educated priest, gave an insider’s view of the workings of the Catholic faith in world affairs as well a historical perspective of religion’s worldwide role in the everyday lives of people, including bringing Christ’s hope, love, and peace to those affected by injustice.
He explained that “the Church has a long history in diplomatic relations in states which cultivates the environment of states and people, and that a country where there are Catholics, the people are more inclined to understand the kind of governments that inform their everyday lives, making negotiations easier between countries.”
Undergraduate Diplomacy sophomores and student leaders Arianna Salazar, Kevin Chedid, and Andrew Travis asked candid and sometimes controversial questions related to important international relations and religious matters that affect everyone. Questions, moderated by UN Center Director Father Brian Muzás, Ph.D., and alumna Linda Adebola, M.S., touched on topics including the role of the Catholic Church in International Affairs, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on essential services of the Church, the evolution of technological advances as a new normal of doing business, how peace dialogues can be a vehicle of change to make life better for all peoples, and the effect of the increase in charity work due to earthquakes and migration in Syria and Serbia.
While debating the effect of presidential leadership on the rights of believers to gather and practice their religion in the United States, Diplomacy sophomore and member of the Seton Hall Student Government Association (SGA), Andrew Travis said, “The right of peoples to congregate and practice their own religion is not a right that can easily be taken away by any president in the United States because it is a democracy in which, through the constitution, has checks and balance that ensure effective protection of such a right.”
Father Sertich concluded the talk with the message that, especially in the two-party context of American politics, one must carefully distinguish between the political acts of leaders who claim to adhere to a particular religion on the one hand and the core beliefs and practices of the religion itself on the other hand, for some have misused religion to justify acts against humanity.