IDI: Interreligious Dialogue Initiative

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"Being a little off, in and out and up-tempo: A Catholic priest falling in love with Shingon Buddhism"

Tuesday, May 24, 5-6:30pm on Zoom

Thierry Jean Roboüam, SJ, is an accomplished scholar in Japanese Buddhism, especially Shingon, the esoteric Buddhist practice that in Japan goes back to the early Ninth Century when Kūkai (also known as Kōbō Daishi) traveled to China and brought back what is now one of the only surviving Vajrayana lineages in East Asia. What is more remarkable, Fr. Roboüam is the first and only Jesuit in history to also complete the arduous work to become a Shingon priest. Fr. Roboüam will speak about his personal spiritual development, including how he came to hold these two different practices together in his own life.

A short response will be offered by the Reverend Taijo Imanaka, the Shingon priest at Seattle Koyasan Temple.

Thierry-Jean Robouam, SJ, is currently the director of the Loyola Centre for Ecology & Justice in Sri Lanka. He is also a Research Fellow at Koyasan University, where he was also a professor from 1997-2019 and lectured on Philosophy and Comparative Religion. He received his doctorate from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley in the field of Experiential Theology on Buddhist and Christian dialogue. For a sampling of his articles, see:

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IDI March 2022

The Evolving Place of Women in the Buddhist World: Interreligious Connections

Thursday, March 10 at 4pm on Zoom

Join us for this first IDI conversation of the year with Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a Buddhist scholar and activist with an international reputation and outreach and founder of the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women.

Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo has taught at the University of San Diego since 2000. She integrates scholarship and social activism through the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women and Jamyang Foundation, an innovative education project for women in developing countries, with 15 schools in the Indian Himalayas, Bangladesh, and Laos.

Respondents to Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo's presentation:
Dr. Sharon Callahan, Professor Emerita, School of Theology and Ministry, and Dr. Sharon Suh, Professor, Theology and Religious Studies and current President of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women.



A Message from the IDI Chair, Dr. Jason Wirth:

After a long ordeal, we return to campus, perhaps with apprehension, likely licking our wounds. In a spirit of solidarity and compassion, I welcome everyone back.

I am currently serving as the chair of the Interreligious Dialogue Initiative (IDI), which is part of the Institute of Catholic Thought and Culture (ICTC) and works collaboratively with them. It organizes and hosts one major lecture each quarter, seeking to address the themes highlighted by the ICTC, but through the lens of interreligious dialogue and reflection. It is my hope to contribute to a healthy, inclusive, respectful, and honest space of shared spiritual striving across the human world’s many religious traditions.

In the months before his passing, Peter Ely, SJ, asked me to replace him as the head of the IDI. It continues to remain my privilege to accept Peter’s offer and to walk in his admittedly large footsteps. I dedicated the first year to his memory and legacy. Challenges and opportunities continue to confront us, and I hope to use Peter’s generous, discerning, and radically open example as an inspiration and guide.

Last academic year, as we all navigated the strange waters of the pandemic, the IDI hosted two events. In the winter quarter, the Soto Zen priest and Viet Nam War veteran Claude AnShin Thomas spoke on peacemaking. In the spring quarter, our own Pat Twohy, SJ, joined the Lummi Elder Darrell Hillaire in a dialogue about spirituality and the ecological crisis. Both events were held on Zoom and were recorded and remain available for viewing on the ICTC website.

I am still planning this academic year’s three lectures. Given the current policy proscribing large non-classroom events, the Fall lecture and discussion will be offered remotely through Zoom. Although the circumstances of the winter and spring lectures are still to be determined, the winter lecture will highlight the Sakyadhita International Association for Buddhist Women, whose new president is Dr. Sharon Suh, and which works “at the grassroots level” to provide “a communications network among Buddhist women internationally” and to “promote research and publications on Buddhist women’s history and other topics of interest” and to “strive to create equal opportunities for women in all Buddhist traditions.” Although the speaker is still in the process of being identified, I am also working with our local friends at the Seattle Buddhist Study Center at the Betsuin (Seattle Buddhist Church). For more information on Sakyadhita, see:

Please contact me with questions and suggestions. I seek to be responsive to our community and to offer spiritually rich and provocative programming that will nourish our whole community, religious and non-religious, traditionalists and seekers.

Tetsuzen Jason Wirth (

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Corona Sutra

With Jason Wirth, PhD

Tetsuzen Jason Wirth, Professor of Philosophy at Seattle University and a Soto Zen priest, offers a Dharma talk (speaking from the heart regarding the great matters of living and dying) that also seeks to offer some Zen words of encouragement during the current crisis. He begins with a brief reflection on a line from the Heart Sutra and then ties its thought to the words of Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253). In so doing, he tries to understand how Dogen would also have seen our crisis as a sutra, a moment the study of which can lead to an awakening and a deepening of our practice.

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Past Messages from IDI

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Past Events

Interreligious Dialogue Initiative Conversation with Darrell Hillaire and Pat Twohy, SJ

May 19, 4-5:30pm on Zoom

Please join us for this unique opportunity to learn about eco-spirituality from two cherished spiritual leaders. The topic will be twofold: Lummi spirituality in dialogue with Jesuit spiritual practice as well as Lummi reflections on ecology and earth care.

Darrell Hillaire, a highly esteemed leader and the executive director of Tse-sum-ten and Setting Sun Productions, has served as a coach, mentor, teacher, and leader for the Lummi Nation for more than twenty years (read more here). Pat Twohy, SJ is the author of two seminal works, Finding a Way Home and Beginnings: A Meditation on Coast Salish Lifeways. He has lived with and served indigenous peoples of the Northwest for four decades, including eleven years with the Colville Confederated Tribes in Eastern Washington and more recently the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes of the Coast Salish Peoples. 


IDI Event

Upcoming IDI Lecture

Active Non-Violence in relation to the ideas of Peace, Non-Violence and Pacifism

Tuesday, February 2 at 4pm PST via Zoom

Claude AnShin Thomas is a Vietnam combat veteran turned Zen Buddhist monk, author, and speaker who will explore the difference between the ideas of peace, non-violence, and pacifism and a commitment to the reality of “active" non-violence. 


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Zen and Morning Star with Fr. Robert Kennedy, SJ


Robert Kennedy is one of three Jesuits in the world who answer to the titles “Father” and “Roshi” or venerable Zen teacher. He is not only a Jesuit priest and Zen master, but also a psychotherapist and former professor of theology at St Peter’s College in New Jersey. He is a representative of the Institute for Spiritual Consciousness in Politics at the United Nations. He is the author of Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit and Zen Gifts to Christians. Watch the recording of the lecture below:


The Crossroads Matrix:  Spirituality, Cosmopolitanism and Black Subjectivity in Fela! On Broadway and Marvel’s Black Panther by Saheed Yinka Adejumobi, Ph.D., Department of History, Global African Studies, and Film Studies

When modern European Christian missionaries along with African apostles and converts translated the Holy Bible into African indigenous languages and myths, they simultaneously transmogrified the Yoruba deity Esu, the guardian of the Crossroads, into the biblical Satan. In many Christian communities throughout the Africa diaspora, the Crossroads became associated with a pathological site where a pact is to be struck with the Devil in exchange for knowledge and power; and the potential cost of this exchange is the loss of human lives or souls.
An alternative interpretation rooted in West African Yoruba cosmology holds that the Crossroads is a portal through which humanistic utopian impulses can be actualized. In this presentation, I explore the African Crossroads Matrix as a metaphor for both material and psychological sacrifice, appreciating lessons of the past, and embracing the potential of new ideas, both material and spiritual. These forces, I argue, make the Crossroads a zone for the exploration of future histories reflecting cosmopolitan ideals that uphold more equal post-hegemonic and even post-racial imaginations.
We often take for granted, in contemporary settings, how subjective definitions of spirituality, visions of moral order, and power are reified through knowledge production and the culture industry. I engage with two major artistic productions that reside at the center of the Crossroads Matrix: Fela! On Broadway (2008-2012) and Marvel’s Black Panther (2018), both conceived, funded and produced in North America but with stories, semiotics and aesthetic research done in Africa. These works challenge post-colonial geopolitics, modern global ethics, and Africa’s general exclusion from enjoying the full benefits of its natural and cultural resources.
Drawing on these themes, my presentation asks, who is a full person? Who is Cosmopolitan? Who controls narratives of the past, the present, and the speculative future? How have people of African heritage defined intellectual, semiotic, aesthetic and cultural expressions throughout periods of slavery, colonialism, dislocation, exile and migration? What have they done with timeless exposure to new ideas of spiritual and material significance? Do African-derived spiritual and humanist values deserve more recognition for their ability to absorb new ideas and pervade creative and expressive cultures on a global scale?

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About the Interreligious Dialogue Initiative

The Interreligious Dialogue Initiative (IDI) established in 2012 under the auspices of Mission and Ministry and now, as of Fall 2015, located within the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture (ICTC) aims to awaken sensibility in the Seattle U. community to the richness of the world’s religions, a richness abundantly represented on our campus, and to move beyond mere tolerance to engagement. The IDI steering committee includes on-campus representatives of various religious and spiritual traditions and key areas such as Campus Ministry, Theology and Religious Studies, and the School of Theology and Ministry. Beginning in the academic year 2019-2020, the IDI will be shifting its focus in a new direction. Each quarter IDI, in collaboration with various other groups and initiatives on campus, will sponsor a public forum designed to deepen awareness of religious traditions and spiritual pathways. We hope that these events will emphasize the continuing creative role of religions in a secular age.


Read the text from the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Decree 5: “Our Mission and Interreligious Dialogue.”

Darrell Hillaire and Pat Twohy, SJ

Upcoming Event: Darrell Hillaire and Pat Twohy, SJ - May 19 @ 4pm

The topic will be twofold: Lummi spirituality in dialogue with Jesuit spiritual practice as well as Lummi reflections on ecology and earth care. Darrell Hillaire is a highly esteemed leader and the executive director of Tse-sum-ten and Setting Sun Productions. Pat Twohy, SJ is the author of two seminal works, Finding a Way Home and Beginnings: A Meditation on Coast Salish Lifeways.

RSVP to for the Zoom link for this event