Talene Bilazarian, a Hodson Trust Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University, studies Political Science with a strong focus on the Middle East:
"It was a challenge and a privilege to visit Jerusalem as a practicing Christian in the company of two Jews and two Muslims. Visiting the city has been a lifelong dream of mine. I was eager to see the Christian holy sites—the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives, and the Garden of Gethsemane. As an Armenian, I was particularly excited about spending time in our historic quarter.
I traveled to Israel with tunnel vision, in many ways discounting or misunderstanding the religious connection that my Muslim and Jewish peers felt to the city. The visit forced me to confront the other civilizations which trace their history through this city. Samuel Huntington is not entirely right when he speaks of the ‘clash of civilizations’. There is a peaceful, perhaps solemn coexistence here.
Coming to understand the sincere connection my Jewish and Muslim friends felt to this city enriched my understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the way that Israel plays such a role in the regional balance of power. This was the unique privilege of the Ibrahim Fellowship. I will return to Jerusalem, but perhaps never again will I encounter the city as it is experienced by pilgrims from three faiths."
In addition to her studies at Johns Hopkims, Talene attended the 2004 and 2008 Democratic National Conventions and worked in the press office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. She is currently in the midst of the Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship exploring the political and theological implications of several London based Islamic feminist movements. In 2012, she was a Millennial Values Fellow in conjunction with Georgetown's Berkeley Center project on young Americans, faith, and values. Her writing has been featured through National Public Radio, Reza Aslan Media, and on the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Next year, she will focus her studies on political theory and religion, looking closely at the role of Islam in Europe during a year abroad at Oxford University in England.
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