Dr Elizabeth Harris

Dr Elizabeth Harris

Department of Theology and Religion
Honorary Fellow, Edward Cadbury Centre

Contact details

I have been committed to inter-religious understanding and encounter for over thirty years, both in Britain and in countries where religion has been implicated in violent conflict. My academic teaching and writing has been informed both by involvement in the public sphere, and practical work within the Christian churches and voluntary organisations.


  • BA Honours   University of Lancaster
  • MA in Buddhist Studies (Distinction), University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka  (1988)
  • PhD in Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka (1993)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education, University of Liverpool  (1973)


I began my professional life as a teacher of English in Jamaica. On return to Britain, I taught for several years in multi-cultural schools in London, before working on the staff of the organisation that had recruited me to teach in Jamaica, Christians Abroad. During this period, I realised that inter-cultural learning included inter-religious learning. I, therefore, became involved in inter-religious groups in London. A pivotal visit to Sri Lanka in my early thirties eventually led to me studying Buddhism there. I lived in the country for over seven years and completed a doctorate. On return to Britain, I became a Research Fellow at Westminster College, Oxford. After this, I worked for eleven years as the Inter Faith Officer for the Methodist Church in Britain, a post that enabled me both to continue academic writing and to become involved in the public sphere of inter-religious relations. During this time, for instance, I lectured at Birmingham University and Lund University. In 2007, I moved back into full-time academic work at Liverpool Hope University, where I eventually became an Associate Professor in Religious Studies. I retired from Liverpool Hope in the summer of 2016 but continue to write and to teach.


My research has focussed on Buddhist Studies and inter-religious studies. Within Buddhist Studies, I have combined an interest in the texts of Theravāda Buddhism with a concern for contemporary issues, such as Buddhism and Women, Buddhism and conflict, the encounter between Buddhism and the West (particularly under European colonialism), and Buddhism and the ‘Other’. I am currently co-writing a biography of one of the first British people to become a Buddhist monk, Allan Bennett.

Other activities

I am an International Adviser to the USA-based Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies and a former President of the European Network of Buddhist-Christian Studies. I serve on the Editorial or Advisory Boards of the following journals: Buddhist-Christian StudiesInterreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology; Dilatato Corde. I contribute to the Christian churches in Britain through being a trustee of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) and Moderator of the CTBI Inter Faith Theology Advisory Group. I was also a member of the Sub-Panel for Theology and Religious Studies in the 2014 REF exercise, nominated by the British Association for the Study of Religions.

I regularly give papers at academic conferences and symposia, and am invited to participate in inter-religious consultations. In January 2017, for instance, I travelled to Myanmar to participate in an Anglican-Lutheran-Buddhist consultation, sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the Network for Inter-Faith Concerns of the Anglican Communion.



  • 2020, edited with Douglas Duckworth and Abraham Vélez de Cea. Buddhist Response to Religious Diversity: Theravada and Tibetan Perspectives. Sheffield and Bristol CT: Equinox.
  • 2019, edited with John O’Grady. Meditation in Buddhist-Christian Encounter: A Critical Analysis. Sankt Ottilien: EOS.
  • 2018. Religion, Space and Conflict in Sri Lanka: Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts. London and New York: Routledge.
  • 2016, Twenty First Century Theologies of Religions: Retrospection and Future Prospects, (co-editor and contributor). Leiden: Brill.
  • 2006, Theravāda Buddhism and the British Encounter: Religious, missionary and colonial experience in nineteenth century Sri Lanka. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
  • 1998. What Buddhists Believe. Oxford: Oneworld.


  • 2020. ‘Gentle Nazarene or Failure? Buddhist Perspectives on Jesus in Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts.’ The Ecumenical Review 72 (5), December: 743-758. 
  • 2020.  'Buddhism and the Religious Other: Twenty-First Century Dambulla and the Presence of Buddhist Exclusivism in Sri Lanka'. Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology 4 (1), April: 3-20.
  • 2019. 'Buddhist Meditation and the British Colonial Gaze in Nineteenth-Century Sri Lanka'. Contemporary Buddhism 20 (1-2), May-November: 200-222.
  • 2019. 'Contested Histories: Multi-Religious Space and Conflict: A Case Study of Kantarodai in Northern Sri Lanka'. Religions 10 (9), 537; doi: 10.3390/rel10090537. 
  • 2018.  'John of the Cross, the Dark Night of the Soul, and the Jhānas and the Arūpa States: A Critical Comparative Study.' Buddhist Studies Review 35 (1-2), December: 65-80. 
  • 2016. ‘Art, Liturgy and the Transformation of Memory: Christian rapprochement with Buddhism in post-independence Sri Lanka’. Religions of South Asia. 10.1: 50-78.
  • 2013. ‘Ananda Metteyya: controversial networker and passionate critic’. Contemporary Buddhism. 14.1: 78-93.
  • 2012. ‘Memory, Experience and the Clash of Cosmologies: The Encounter between British Protestant Missionaries and Buddhism in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka’. Social Sciences and Mission. 24.3: 265-303.
  • 2012. ‘Sleeping Next to my Coffin: Representations of the Body in Theravāda Buddhism’. Buddhist Studies Review. 29.1: 105-120.
  • 2001. ‘Buddhism and War: a study of cause and effect from Sri Lanka’. Culture and Religion. 2.2: 197-222.

Chapters in edited collections

  • 2020. ‘Women and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue’. In Building a Culture of Compassion: Essays Celebrating 25 Years of the Vesak Message to Buddhists, edited by Indunil J. Kodithuwakku K. Vatican City: Urbaniana University Press: 219-235.
  • 2020. ‘Interreligious Encounter’. In The Bloomsbury Handbook to Studying Christians, edited by George D. Chryssides and Stephen E. Gregg. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic: 107-120.
  • 2019. ‘Meditation in Buddhist-Christian Encounter: A Critical Analysis – Introductory Address’. In Meditation in Buddhist-Christian Encounter: A Critical Analysis, edited by Elizabeth Harris and John O’Grady. Sankt Ottilien: EOS: 27-56.
  • 2013. ‘Buddhism and the Religious Other’. In David Cheetham, Douglas Pratt & David Thomas (eds.), Understanding Interreligious Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 88-117.
  • 2013. ‘Buddhism and International Aid: A Case-Study from Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka’. In Hiroko Kawanami & Geoffrey Samuel (eds.), Buddhism, International Relief Work and Civil Society. New York: Palgrave Macmillan: 1-25.
  • 2007. ‘The Cost of Peace: Buddhists and Conflict Transformation in Sri Lanka’. In Damien Keown (ed.), Can Faiths Make Peace?. London: I. B. Tauris: 149-161.
  • 2003. ‘Buddhism and the Justification of War: A Case Study from Sri Lanka’. In Paul Robinson (ed.), Just War in Comparative Perspective. Aldershot: Ashgate: 93-108.
  • 2002. ‘Double Belonging in Sri Lanka: Illusion or Liberating Path’. In Catherine Cornille (ed.), Many Mansions? Multiple Religious Belonging and Christian Identity.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis: 76-92.