Teresa Smallwood, postdoctoral fellow and associate director of the Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative in the Divinity School. Photo courtesy of Steve Green/Vanderbilt University

(RNS) — Watching the civil rights protests on television as a child, Emilie Townes asked her mother, “Why do they hate us?”

Today, as dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, Townes is behind an effort to make that question a thing of the past with a new collaborative aimed at eradicating hate and promoting racial harmony.

“I have been trying to understand evil all my life,” the Rev. Townes said in a statement announcing the collaborative.

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