A Culture of Encounter: EU

The Creating a Culture of Encounter is a GHFP partnership initiative in collaboration with Aga Khan International, Arigatou International, European Wergeland Centre, and Scholas Occurrentes.

The one-year pilot began in September 2021. The main objectives were to bring together European nationals, and migrant and refugee youths living in Europe, through a culture of encounter to promote mutual understanding, foster inclusion and solidarity, and support young people to engage as active citizens through collective actions.

The project emerged in response to concerns identified by project partners around the rise of discrimination and hate speech across Europe. By creating shared spaces for young people to further develop their knowledge, attitudes and skills, and to actively question and transform narratives of discrimination and hate, the Project aims contribute to peacefulness in Europe and prevention of violence. Project activities aimed to equip youth with the competencies to be ‘agents of transformation’ in their communities, by influencing and training others, multiplying the reach of this initiative to a wider community of young people through positive social actions and campaigns.

As a Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) partner, from September 2021 to July 2022, the GHFP conducted an evaluation of the pilot to draw out initial findings from the project activities. The purpose of the evaluation was to investigate progress against the intended aims and identify key outcomes of the project.

The MEL took a mixed-methods approach informed by quantitative and qualitative data from activity monitoring, youth baseline, teacher questionnaire and focus groups with young people and teachers.  


Participants

Across three youth hubs in Spain, Portugal and Italy, 72 young people were engaged through citizenship and intercultural learning encounters and 48 teachers received training in intercultural and interfaith dialogue processes. Each hub successfully recruited youth from across several schools and localities that provided a broad range of participant backgrounds. Due to organisational constraints and covid-19 restrictions the programme did not engage as widely with refugee and migrant communities as intended; in future iterations, a greater focus on identifying relevant settings in advance and ensuring uptake would be advantageous.


Activities 

Project partners collaborated to identify three key types of activity of the pilot project:

  • Educator workshops aimed at strengthening the capacity of teachers and equipping them with intercultural and interfaith dialogue skills to work with youth on issues of discrimination and violence to foster inclusion and pluralism.
  • Youth workshops for young people aged 16-18 years old in Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, through both online and in-person participatory workshops intended to provide opportunities for youth to experience active citizenship and learn to integrate intercultural and interfaith dialogue for creating a culture of encounter in their communities.
  • Youth-led projects facilitated in schools and communities to advance new narratives of mutual understanding, belongingness and respect, including a youth-led social media campaign to mobilise a wider network of young people in Europe, raise awareness, share their experiences, and influence positive change.

Pilot Outcomes

Teachers and young people reported a high level of need for and desire for spaces to examine issues of identity, discrimination, and inclusion. Learners valued the culture of encounter as a safe space for them to learn about themselves, get to know each other and consider their contribution to building more inclusive communities.

Learners most appreciated the participatory nature of activities and how they were encouraged to share their own thoughts and ideas.

The model of teachers participating and interacting equally with young people proved transformative for both teachers and youth.

Storytelling and mural activities were also effective for opening up discussion with young people. Young people reported an increased confidence and openness to express themselves and that activities had reduced inhibitions when engaging in group situations.

The programme had clear benefits on improving participants’ awareness and experience of active citizenship. The programme supported young people to recognise themselves as agents of inclusion, recognise commonalities and gain new perspectives. Young people felt that they had increased understanding and awareness of prejudice and discrimination, and increased confidence in combating discrimination and exclusion.

All young people interviewed during focus groups recognised the importance of youth as agents of change, felt more confident that they could make a positive difference and had been motivated to take a more active role in their communities. The project has had a positive impact on social interactions of young people in both the classroom and beyond, with examples of youth-led initiatives being disseminated in their schools and communities.

‘I have learned that, at least in my experience, between different people there are more similarities than differences, and that, different tastes aside, we work better together.’ — Young person from Greece

Teachers were highly impressed by the training and ability of facilitators to develop a strong level of openness and encounter with youth. Teachers appreciated learning about new innovative and participatory tools to engage students, recognising the value of these as helpful launching off points to introduce difficult topics around identity and exclusion. Teachers were inspired to take a more learner-centred participatory approach to citizenship education and prioritise youth encounters in future. Teachers valued having the space to hear and exchange ideas around inclusion and identity from colleagues in different schools and across different subject areas. They reported that they were likely to apply the learning in the classroom and were inspired to support youth-led change. As a result of the project, teachers were committed to supporting youth-led projects and had an overall sense of pride around the potential of young people and the sense of empowerment unleashed amongst learners.

This way of understanding education is encouraging many teachers to open the windows of our schools, weave networks and multiply the spaces for play, art and critical reflection because we have seen  the transformative force they contain.’ — Teacher, Spain

Despite the positive experiences in creating a culture of encounter across participating settings, teachers noted that COVID-19 impacted project delivery and the practicalities of delivering face to face workshops led to delays and complications. The use of online spaces for youth engagement was also limited and could be further utilised in future programming through better understanding of how youth can best make use of these platforms.

An added value of the partnership model has been the sharing and cross fertilization of youth pedagogies across the delivery partners with youth hubs, this has led to rich and diverse workshops and an ever evolving and responsive programme. 

The three youth hubs continue to be engaged in the project as they continue to roll-out youth initiatives. Funding is being sort for the next stage of the Culture of Encounter project which will build upon the successes of the first-year pilot in 2023.

Interfaith Approach to Inclusive Education

This year, the GHFP sponsored the G20 Interfaith (G20i) Education Task Force’s research into Inclusive and Caring Education from an Interfaith Perspective. The research consisted in three parts: (1) a Desk Review to understand better how religion/faith and spirituality might inspire an innovative understanding of inclusive and caring education; (2) a Questionnaire Survey to seek interfaith organisations and explore faith-inspired approaches to inclusive and caring education; (3) Case Studies to illustrate how interfaith organisations engage in inclusive and caring practices in the communities.

Three priority areas have been proposed as the basis for policy recommendations:

  1. Advancing wellbeing of all as the aim of education
  2. Ensuring participation of all learners within richly inclusive learning environments
  3. Aligning teachers’ professional development with the wellbeing and inclusion focus  

The finalised G20 Interfaith Forum Education Policy Brief will now be presented at 2020 G20 Interfaith Forum to be held on 13-16 October 2020.

Inclusive & Caring Education: G20 Interfaith Forum Education Task Force

As part of the G20 Interfaith (G20i) Education-Task-Force, the GHFP launched a research into Inclusive and Caring Education from a Faith Perspective. The research consisted in two parts: (1) a Desk Review to understand better how religion/faith and spirituality tend to define inclusive and caring education; (2) a Questionnaire Survey to seek examples and case studies of faith-inspired approaches to inclusive and caring education.

Three priority areas have emerged from our inquiries, which deserve further attention:

  1. Teachers’ professional development, especially towards enabling teachers to be more skilled at facilitating dialogic and collaborative learning in classrooms of rich diversity;
  2. Innovative approaches and practices of inclusive and caring education, notably in engaging girls, and other vulnerable students;
  3. Safe, caring and inclusive learning spaces, including through digital platforms.

The G20i Education Task Force is now inviting high-level experts in the fields of education, faith and policy for an online consultation with the aim to review thematic proposals and make policy recommendations.

We welcome faith-inspired educational projects and programmes that have a focus on inclusion and diversity to continue to share their practice HERE.

Webinar: Impact of COVID-19 on Religious and Faith Communities

International Webinar: The impact of COVID-19 on religious and faith communities

On 27 May at 4pm CET, the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute partnered with the GHFP Research Institute, the Spirit of Humanity Forum, the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD) and the United Religions Initiative, and held a webinar examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on religious and faith communities around the world.

Questions discussed during the webinar were:

  • What are the pandemic’s major impact on religious and faith communities? How might religious leaders and their followers help embrace the challenges brought by the pandemic?
  • How might we reduce social tension stemming from religious factors at this unique time? How can we do to foster solidarity within and between different religious and faith communities and improve mental and physical well-being during the pandemic?
  • What religious, faith and spiritual practices could become part of the new normal in a post-COVID-19 world? What could be the part of religion, faith and spirituality in future of our society?

The event featured the following speakers:

Katherine Marshall, Senior Fellow, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University / Executive Director, World Faiths Development Dialogue

Victor Kazanjian, Executive Director, United Religions Initiative

Patrice Brodeur, Professor, Institute of Religious Studies, University of Montreal & Senior Adviser, KAICIID

The Webinar was facilitated by Scherto Gill, Senior Research Fellow and Executive Secretary, GHFP Research Institute.

To view the event:

On YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCXMYNkGKho

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DOCResearchInstitute/videos/832214357304217/UzpfSTEwNTA2NTU0NTgzNTIyNjY6MzAyMzMyMTA1MTA4NTY4Nw/

International Symposium 2012

International Symposium on Religion Spirituality and Education for Human Flourishing.
24-26 FEBRUARY 2012, Dar Moulay Boubkar, Marrakech, Morocco.
Co-Convened by Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace and UN Alliance of Civilizations ‘Education about Religions and Beliefs’ Project.

An edited book of papers, ISBN 978-1-137-37389-2 is published by Palgrave Macmillan. The book is entitled: RE-DEFINING RELIGIOUS EDUCATION: SPIRITUALITY for HUMAN FLOURISHING. Please visit the Official publication page.

INTRODUCTION : For a large proportion of the people in the world, spirituality is an important part of being human and often thought to be an essential element of a flourishing life. Today’s world is facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities, and so there is a pressing need to educate in order to develop a deeper awareness of the spiritual dimensions of our lives. In this context, we are interested specifically in exploring the part that religious education can play in cultivating human virtues and spirituality. Under various names, such as ‘education about religion’, ‘faith education,’ ‘religious studies,’ and ‘religious education,’ the teaching of religious beliefs has already been integrated into the national curricula of many countries. However, the focus of religious education is generally to impart knowledge about religions, and perhaps gesture towards some inter-religious understanding. This way of approaching religious education tends to regard religion as an academic subject, and because such education is at arms-length, the spiritual and experiential aspects of religion are not made directly available to students.
The Symposium will aim to go beyond the current knowledge-centred approaches to religious education and offers a space to discuss and debate the following questions:

In what ways can education of/from religions better contribute to young people’s spirituality and to the flourishing of their lives?
How can these contributions of religions be better integrated in schooling?

OBJECTIVES : The objectives of the Symposium are:

To establish a common platform or framework for understanding the positive contributions of religions towards spirituality;
To identify the ways in which educational systems can facilitate or nurture such spirituality;
To examine the pedagogical implications and challenges of such educational programmes;
To identify a set of good questions for further inquiries and possible research.

METHODOLOGY and PROCESSES : Prior to the Symposium, each of the participants will write a scholarly paper to address some aspect of the main questions that the Symposium aims to explore. These papers will be circulated to all the participants before the event and will serve as resources for the discussions/conversations during the event. The Symposium is envisaged to last three days. Each day, there will be plenary sessions, group discussions, and optional sessions of religious and spiritual practices offered by the participants from their own traditions.

Visit the Official UNAoC/ERB site for Education About Religions

Museum of World Religions

Welcome to the Museum of World Religions, and introducing to you this planning and co-ordination phase of a Project to establish a Museum of World Religions in Birmingham, England.
The project was inspired and initiated by the Dharma Master Hsin Tao who founded the first Museum of World Religions in Taiwan.

The focus of the project is to establish a Museum of World Religions in Birmingham. This may alternatively be named the ‘UNESCO Centre of World Religions’ or the ‘UNESCO Centre of Inter-Religious Understanding’. It is envisaged to be a world-class institution, probably in a multi-storey, purpose-built building, along the lines of the great museums of the world.

The Museum is intended to be a shared space for dialogue and understanding between people from different faith communities as well as for people of no religion or faith. It will serve as an educational resource for learners of all ages, and provide an opportunity for individuals to explore the part that religion plays in contemporary life.

Many partners are contributing both creatively and financially to this project in order to help develop its concept, content and direction.In November 2010, the MWR (UK)’s workgroup convened a one-day symposium to discuss the project’s Concept Paper, in consultation with scholars and leaders from the diverse faith communities in Birmingham.


Please refer to the Concept Paper.

Please do Contact us by email
Museum of World Religions
UK Charity registration number 1134301