Karen Armstrong awarded honorary doctorate at VU Amsterdam

If there is one concept that defines the work of British author and religious scientist Karen Armstrong, it is compassion. She highlights this common core in a wide variety of religious traditions and has made an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the position different religions hold in society.

07/04/2017 | 4:39 PM

Because her work and achievements closely embody the contribution that Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam aims to make to the dialogue between different religions and to the ideas about their role in society, Armstrong is being awarded an honorary doctorate in Theology and Religious Studies. At the opening of the academic year on Monday, 4 September, she will be awarded the honorary title by her honorary supervising professor Manuela Kalsky, professor in the endowed Edward Schillebeeckx chair for Theology and Society.

Twenty-one books translated into 45 languages
Karen Armstrong is one of the world’s leading experts in interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance in the public domain. She is in high demand as a speaker across the world and her work has included advising the Dutch and American parliaments on Islam and religious extremism. Her 21 books have been translated into 45 languages and are often bestsellers. Honorary supervising professor Manuela Kalsky: “Religious plurality keeps increasing in society and at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. We need public intellectuals like Karen Armstrong to interpret that plurality for a wider public.” In her best-known work, A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Armstrong provides a highly accessible insight into the religious sciences.

Connection in times of polarization
Armstrong has joined forces with leaders and great thinkers from all of the world’s religions, including the Dutch rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, in initiating a social movement under the name ‘Charter for Compassion‘. She aims to use this as a manifesto for promoting connection between religions, meaning and societal engagement. “Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion seamlessly matches our faculty’s efforts to showcase and promote the positive power of religious diversity in society”, says Ruard Ganzevoort, Dean of the faculty of Theology. He emphasizes that striving for compassion is particularly topical in a world characterized by social, cultural and religious polarization. According to Ganzevoort, Armstrong’s work represents his faculty’s ambition to make research in theology and religious science relevant for society.