The 19th IAHR International Conference, Tokyo, Japan

Giorgos Halkias

The International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) is a worldwide body of national and regional associations for the study of religion. It is a member of the Counseil International de la Philosophie et des Sciences Humaines (CIPSH), which functions under the auspices of UNESCO. Founded in 1950, the IAHR is held once every five years and aims to promote the academic study of the history of religions through international collaboration of scholars. The 19th World Congress was held under the joint sponsorship of the Japanese Association for Religious Studies (JARS) and the Science Council of Japan in cooperation with other associations. This is the second congress to be sponsored by the JARS which also hosted the 9th Congress in 1958.

The 19th IAHR World Congress convened at the Takanawa Prince Hotel & New Takanawa Prince Hotel (Shinagawa) and lasted for seven days from the 24–30 March 2005. The conference theme addressed one of the most urgent issues of our time: conflict and peace. Scholars of religions were asked to make contributions to the debate by analysing the role of religion broadly in matters concerning conflict and peace and their various aspects, as well as of single religious traditions in their diverse forms (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, etc). The theme covered ancient as well as living religions and enabled a variety of approaches, i.e., historical, sociological, anthropological, psychological, textual, iconographical, and philosophical. The panels dealt with diverse topics such as, religion and war, religion and violence, religion and identity, sacred canons of peace, etc. A highlight was the Opening Symposium and Keynote address on the topic of Religion and Dialogue Among Civilizations. For five days the conference opened with plenary sessions consisting of presentations and responses by a panel of experts and it was followed by panels, symposia, roundtable sessions, individual papers, and special sessions that focused on Japanese religions delivered mainly in Japanese – one of the three official languages of the conference, the other two being English and French.

The 19th IAHR was indeed well attended with speakers from all round the globe as financial assistance was offered to those of less developed countries. Three presentations were given by Greek speakers: Panayotis Pachis, chair of the panel IMAGISTIC MODES OF RELIGIOSITY IN THE GRAECO-ROMAN WORLD, who presented his article Imagistic Modes of Religiosity in the Cult of Isis/Sarapis during the Graeco Roman Era (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki);  Georgios Halkias, chair of  the panel RELIGION AND STATE, who delivered his article The Prophesy of Pan-Tibetan Consolidation: A Church-State Fusion in 17th Century Tibet  (Oriental Institute, University of Oxford); and Stylianos Papalexandropoulos, who presented his article Remarks on the Attempts to Interpret Dogen Zen Through Tracing its Ancestry  (University of Athens).

The conference was well organized and included an Opening Ceremony, a General Assembly and a Closing Ceremony, all of which were open to the participants. Notable was the rich cultural program that included special exhibitions, excursions to religious sites in Tokyo, Kamakura, Kawasaki and Yokohama, traditional Japanese musical events, book exhibitions from Japanese and International publishers, and two main receptions with abundant alcohol and food (Japanese, Chinese and Western).