Religious conflict is on the rise and relatively little is being done about it. Inter-religious conflict is draining away hope for peaceful relations between neighboring populations, and intra-religious conflict is paralyzing the abilities of leaders within these populations to deal with the problem of extremism in all its guises. Each of the monotheistic world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) traces its origins to ideas embedded in the great texts of the ancient Near East, yet relatively little attention is actively directed toward understanding what these texts have to say, thus making it difficult for contemporary Westerners to understand the reactionary thinking of the puritan extremists now abusing them.
The Arizona Research Center for the Ancient Near East (ARCANE) is dedicated to the task of researching the great texts of the ancient Near East in order to diagnose more accurately the character and development of inter-religious conflict.
Like most educational institutions, ARCANE has a clear set of goals:
RESEARCH and PUBLICATION— to maintain a credible, specialized, and accessible research center for the study of ancient Near Eastern religion and culture.
The primary presumption underlying this goal is that those who deal with the problem of religious conflict must thoroughly understand what it is–its roots, its history, its inevitable consequences. Frantic overreaction to each new crisis is not an acceptable strategy for conflict resolution. Education is the only sensible option.
The secondary presumption is that most religious conflict results from tensions generated between tribal groups interacting with each other over long periods of time. These tensions are not so mysterious as to be incomprehensible, but serious dialogue is impossible apart from active research into the ancient texts revered by each group.
TEACHING and TRAINING— to make on-line instruction about ancient Near Eastern language and literature accessible and affordable.
Archaeological discovery is ongoing and active, constantly energizing the study of ancient Near Eastern history, and ARCANE makes this research more accessible to more students.
SUPERVISED FIELD TRIPS— to provide supervised trips to the Middle East led by qualified guides sensitive to all sides of the regional conflict.
Religious institutions (synagogues, mosques, churches, temples) are a proven educational resource, but in the area of religious conflict they often need specialized help. Universities and colleges need help as well, especially those more focused on centripetal institutional than centrifugal international concerns. Governmental organizations need help because most government employees are not trained to deal with the complexities of religious conflict, whether on a local or a global scale. The same applies to multinational corporations, non-profits, charities, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
In short, the Arizona Research Center for the Ancient Near East exists for the purpose of demystifying the problem of religious conflict by providing easier access to the primary and secondary resources necessary to interpret the “great texts” of the ancient Near East more relevantly to the needs of 21st century readers.