Dialogue Knowledge Hub
Activity: Structure and Needs
To implement a national interfaith civic education, the concerned organization should have the capacity to propose a rigorous program developed by researchers and interfaith professionals, to be able to achieve the standards of national public education. It also has to ensure the neutrality of the viewpoint in its teaching content. The organization would propose a curriculum with pedagogical tools and material to apply its curriculum and to train the future teachers. Furthermore, the organization must draw from interfaith experiences to be able to train the teaching delegations in the field of conflict resolution and the challenges they are likely to encounter.
As for the university course initiative, a professor or a teacher of religious studies or interreligious issues should offer their expertise to an educational institution. They must be prepared to describe the advantages of this kind of course, and if they are only experts on one religion, they should associate with other religious experts. The director of an educational establishment should propose this kind of class to students, depending on the subjects taught. To organize this course, one can invite an expert of religious studies or religious dignitaries and organize visits to places of worship.
In high school or at the Universities, teachers and professors can be trained to lead classes on a given country’s religions. Then, they instruct their students on the different belief systems, and invite them to speak about these topics themselves.
As extracurricular educational activity, children of interfaith families are united every week and are taught the basic principles of their parents’ religions, in this example Judaism and Christianity. Via ludic and pedagogical games and workshops adapted to their age group, children learn various things, such as Hebrew or about the life of Jesus. They are taught by specialized educators whose cost is covered by a membership fee families pay at the beginning of the year.
Evening religion classes have to be launched in partnership with a university. This partnership would also offer an official accreditation for the classes, since they would be taught by university lecturers. Prerequisites are not required to follow these classes, and each term can be taken independently of the others. Each term focuses on and covers different aspects of religious education. For example, terms 1 and 2 could focus on the history and development of each of the world’s main faiths and beliefs, while terms 3 and 4 could focus on selected topics in the contemporary practice of the major world religions. The professors can also be assisted by religious leaders as well as philosophers or other qualified people.
Objectives: Impact and Focus
A national interfaith civic education is a promising practice because it allows the diffusion of interfaith coexistence and acceptance at a very large scale, uniformly in all schools and high schools. Being taught under a broader civic education program, students are keener to accept interfaith education as part of their rights and duties as citizens. Therefore, they develop a stronger moral obligation than if they had been presented with these concepts outside of the classroom. Proposed by an organization active in the interfaith community, it ensures that the program will be a practical one and politically neutral, based on the organization’s field experience. Furthermore, this practice increases educators’ awareness, and trains them to communicate their knowledge of these issues in a formal context. It also creates a safe space for the students to express themselves with their classmates, opening the issue to debate, and reducing the likelihood that it develops into a conflict in school environments.
The university course is also promising, for its aim is to highlight the multicultural and diverse aspect of modern society. Students learn about those relations, since there is often a lack of awareness of one’s neighbor’s beliefs, and fear of the other’s religion. This course helps reflect the reality of different faiths, which assists in eliminating prejudice, therefore fostering coexistence between the religions. Interreligious courses are also effective in primary schools, where students can understand early on that religion is not a taboo but a topic to be discussed. They also become aware of most of the religions present in their classes, which makes them more likely to be at ease with their own spirituality, and more open to that of others. Inscribed in an official program, this pluri-religious education stresses the value and importance of the subject of religion in education and social interactions.
Through extracurricular educational activities, children of different traditions and faiths, such as Christians and Jews, get to meet weekly in a parish to learn about both traditions, which would implement better understanding and peaceful coexistence. Religious literacy courses also aim to make sure that anyone, regardless of their age and schedule, can have access to a religious education as a way to fight ignorance and bigotry.
Field Data: Examples and Sources (Activity – Organisation – Location)
1.) National Interfaith Civic Education – Adyan Foundation – Beirut, Lebanon
Christian and Muslim founders created the Adyan foundation for interreligious studies and spiritual solidarity. Active throughout Lebanon and abroad through cross-cultural studies, school education on coexistence, solidarity and media, it envisions a world where diversity between individuals and communities is viewed as an enrichment that generates mutual understanding, intercultural citizenship, creative development, sustainable peace and spiritual solidarity. It currently works alongside the Ministry of Education in Lebanon to create a moral education integrating interfaith active coexistence as part of civic responsibilities.
2.) University of Marmara – Faculty of Theology of Marmara University – Istanbul, Turkey
This course was created by Dr. İsmail Taşpinar within the faculty of theology of Marmara University in Turkey. Turkey is a crossroad of diverse religious convictions: Middle-East, Russia, Europe. Interreligious relations are quite normal in this country, and coexistence among religions is clearly visible. This is the first time that interreligious relations are discussed in a university in Turkey. Dr. Taşpinar uses the research field to show the links between the religions. He is a reference for all Turkish theological faculties, and is the only one who teaches Interreligious Relations in Turkey.
3.) Pluri-religious Education in Primary Schools – Funda Ujabule School – Johannesburg, South Africa
The Funda Ujabule School seeks to teach its students social responsibility. Therefore, it implements interfaith education from a very young age, and jointly offers classes on environmental and other major social challenges. Religion is taught in very practical terms and from a historic point of view by a professor every week and is treated like any other class subject.
4.) Interfaith Sunday school – Interfaith Families Project – Rockville, Maryland, USA
The InterFaith Families Project is one of the biggest interfaith initiatives in the Washington area, in the US. It unites families with a Jewish and a Christian parent to share their religious life’s experience, and live in interfaith harmony, peace and happiness. Every week, it brings together children for an interfaith Sunday school, just after an interfaith service, while a discussion circle between parents happens simultaneously.
5.) Raising Religious Literacy – Religious Diversity Center – Auckland, New Zealand
Though New Zealand is rather secular and its people are respectful of differences, there was still a need for a space where people from all faiths gather and are provided with information about the different cultures within their society. Therefore, the Religious Diversity Center, hosted within the University of Auckland, decided to launch this initiative in order to put forward education and give anyone the opportunity to learn religious history.