William Vendley, GSAS ’84
William Vendley, Ph.D., is a 1984 alumnus of Fordham's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Since 1994, when he was named secretary general of Religions for Peace, an international coalition of religious communities dedicated to promoting peace, William Vendley, Ph.D., has worked in areas such as Sierra Leone, Bosnia and Sri Lanka to rally and equip religious communities to intervene peacefully where there is armed conflict.
Following the Bosnian Civil War, for instance, Vendley facilitated the establishment of the Interreligious Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which resulted in a commitment of the country’s diverse religious communities to rebuild a single, multiethnic Bosnia.
In 2003, three weeks after the United States’ military occupation of Iraq, he brought together senior Iraqi religious leaders in Amman, Jordan, where they worked to develop an interreligious council. He also helped establish the Interreligious Council of Sierra Leone and served as a consultant in the peace talks in Togo that ended violent conflict between the Sierra Leone government and local rebels.
Vendley credits his education in theology at Fordham for training him “to become a global citizen,” a key requirement for leading Religions for Peace. “Theology deals as much with the contemporary challenges that confront the human family as it does with the origins of a religious tradition,” he says. “I wouldn’t be able to do work that places me in a relationship with both the world’s major religious communities and the world’s governments and international agencies had I not received a solid education in what being a world citizen means.”
As the secretary general of Religions for Peace, Vendley has achieved a number of milestones, including the establishment of the Hope for African Children Initiative, a pan-African effort to target the needs of African children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The initiative, which is also backed by CARE, Save the Children and Plan International, has generated more than $50 million to equip African communities to fight AIDS, while engaging grassroots congregations to provide assistance services.
“Today, to be genuinely faithful, we need to creatively engage the historical origins of traditions with contemporary frontline challenges,” says Vendley, who serves on President Obama’s Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation Task Force. “Religions have always dealt with two questions: How do we make sense of the manifest of suffering, disorder and tragedy of the human experience? And how do we find a genuine remedy for them?”