Peacemaker, healer, scholar Najeeba Syeed to deliver annual Harry Vaughan Smith Lecture


MACON — Najeeba Syeed, El-Hibri endowed chair and executive director of Augsburg University’s Interfaith Institute, will deliver Mercer University’s 32nd annual Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion Lectures Feb. 20-21 in Newton Chapel on the Macon campus. 

“In these lectures, I will explore the concept of interfaith just peacemaking,” said Professor Syeed. “Although some people view religion as a source of conflict and violence, religious traditions can foster connection, non-violence and interfaith understanding. I will share examples of restorative peace building in violent conflicts that seek a third way to resolve controversies instead of violence or inaction.”

Syeed has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, on NPR, PBS, on the Tavis Smiley show, worked with Oprah Winfrey and has been quoted by print and news media around the globe. She has been a professor and expert practitioner in the fields of conflict resolution, mediation and interfaith studies. 

“Given our country’s increasingly pluralistic landscape, we must both affirm what we share in common and find ways to cooperate across our differences,” said Dr. Bryan Whitfield, professor and chair of the religion department. “We at Mercer provide our students opportunities to develop these crucial skills of communication and citizenship, and I am delighted to welcome Professor Syeed to our campus, knowing she will contribute to that goal so that we can learn from one another and find connection and understanding across religious traditions.”

The theme of her lectures will be “Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Christian and Muslim Resources for Restorative Justice.” The lecture schedule is: 

Tuesday, Feb. 20, 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
“The End of Punishment: A Holistic Approach to Cultures of Peace” 

Tuesday, Feb. 20, 7:30-8:45 p.m.
“Fragile Democracies: Peacebuilding and Polarization”  

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 10:10-11:00 a.m.
“Am I in Your Future?: Transitional Justice and the Role of Spiritual Communities”

The lectures, co-sponsored by the Office of the President and the Columbus Roberts Department of Religion in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, are free and open to the public. Limited seating is available.

The Harry Vaughan Smith Distinguished Visiting Professorship was established in 1990 after Dr. and Mrs. Harry Vaughan Smith made a major gift to Mercer to underwrite a visiting professorship and lecture series in the Department of Religion.

The gift bears witness to the lifelong commitment of the late Dr. Smith to the University, which began when he enrolled as a freshman in 1920. A 1924 graduate, Dr. Smith served as pastor of several prominent churches in Georgia before becoming alumni secretary and assistant to the president at Mercer in 1946, a post he held until 1955. From 1955-1970, he distinguished himself as executive director of the Georgia Baptist Foundation. In his many years of service, Dr. Smith was a faithful worker on behalf of all Georgia Baptist causes, but he always maintained a special interest in the University and the cause of Christian higher education.