The Institute's mission emerges from the intimate yet often bitter connections that have existed historically among Jews, Christians, and Muslims:
- The Abrahamic traditions share common origins and values.
- Their histories and thought have been intertwined for some 1,300 years.
- Relationships among their practitioners have varied from time and place but have often been characterized by mistrust and even hatred.
- Much current popular as well as scholarly thinking considers them unalterably opposed to each other.
- Scholarship has more often treated each tradition in isolation from or antagonistic to the other though in a comparative framework.
- The ongoing legacy of misunderstanding and mistrust militates against peaceful intercourse among Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
These considerations ground the Institute's mission: to create better understanding of the Abrahamic traditions and their interrelationships by encouraging ongoing discussion of these traditions among scholars, members of those traditions, and the general public.
LISAR carries out its mission by running programs in two linked spheres, the academy and the community. The academic enterprise contributes to scholarship and provides intellectual scaffolding for the community-oriented activities, which invite individuals to meet with members of other traditions and which, in turn, inform scholars about emerging issues in the relationships among the Abrahamic traditions. The Institute's academic projects include hosting the annual LISAR conference, offering lectures, publishing scholarly work, supporting initiatives concerning the Abrahamic religions developed by other units on campus, and contributing to the teaching mission of the Religious Studies Program. Its community-oriented activities include on-campus projects such as the Undergraduate Forum and the Undergraduate Fellows, as well as off-campus works being developed under the auspices of the External Steering Committee, which is comprised of clerical and lay figures from around southern Wisconsin. This merging of academic and community-oriented activities exemplifies the Wisconsin Idea, articulated by University President Charles Van Hise a century ago, that the walls of the University extend to the boundaries of the state. In the twenty-first century, those walls reach even farther.
The Institute is a unit of the College of Letters & Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Program support comes principally from the Sheldon and Marianne Lubar Fund administered by the University of Wisconsin Foundation. LISAR has received an award from the Anonymous Fund of the College of Letters & Science, and it administers a grant from The Metanexus Institute, Local Societies Initiative (LSI) for the Isthmus Society, a collaborative project. Together with the Religious Studies Program, the Institute makes the University of Wisconsin-Madison an important site for learning about religion.
Visit their website at http://lisar.lss.wisc.edu/index.html