Background to the concept
Over the past years a wider interest has arisen in religious and cultural diversity as a social reality in Europe. However, the ways in which this diversity is framed and treated in EU policy and across the different Member States raises a number of questions that need further reflection and study. For instance, secularism is an important constitutional value in many European States and in Turkey. However, the models of secularism differ to a large extent. The existing models are being challenged by a new diversity of religions and other beliefs. This diversity has been brought about by many factors, including the European Union’s expansion and important migration fluxes. The result is that many people now hold beliefs and values that are different from the majority. These members of the European society are seeking recognition of their religious identities. Doing so, they put the very notion of secularism to the test.
The divide between the public and the private spheres lies at the core of RELIGARE’s research. This borderline is not clear-cut and is not at the same place in everyone’s perception. Can the public sphere be simultaneously neutral and tolerant? Can new world views, social patterns and lifestyles be accommodated and/or incorporated in the public sphere? How respectful is the law of the private sphere?
RELIGARE is about religions, belonging, beliefs and secularism. It examines the current realities, including the legal rules protecting or limiting (constraining) the experiences of religious or other belief-based communities. Where the practices of communities or individuals do not conform to State law requirements, or where communities turn to their own legal regimes or tribunals, the reasons behind these developments need to be understood. The purpose of RELIGARE is to explore adequate policy responses. Adequate policies seek meeting points between the realities and expectations of communities and the protection of human rights in terms of equality and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
With a view to stimulating comparison and promoting new insights that may give concrete input for a future policy agenda, the consortium has a partner from Turkey, as candidate Member State, and the Advisory Board includes members of Lebanon and South Africa.
Picture of the project's consortium