From 7 till 9 December a conference on "Religion, Beliefs, Philosophical Convictions and Education: From Passive Toleration to Active Appreciation of Diversity" took place in Bruges, during the period, that Belgium is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The conference was organised by the European Association for Education Law and Policy (ELA), the Institute for multicultural affairs (FORUM), the University of Tilburg and the College of Europe with the support of Wolf Legal Publishers, de Buren, Scientific Council for Government Policy, the Network of European Foundations and the Fondation Bernheim.
The focus of the Forum 2010 is living with religious differences in education. Europeanization and globalization bring people closer together than ever before, but at the same time we see people also fall back on traditional identities and private loyalties, where religion often plays a major role. How do we - in circumstances where we are more than ever aware of the presence of religious differences in the public domain, perhaps most acutely experienced in schools - deal with those differences in a positive fashion which enriches our common life? How can we teach our children not to be threatened by religious diversity but rather to respect those who bring different convictions to our common life? How can education contribute to the realization that religious diversity does not have to weaken a society, but can in fact make it richer on the basis of mutual respect? But let us be clear: religious differences can also tear a society apart, and can weaken the positive effects of schools, unless the policies and administrative arrangements through which these differences find expression and are accommodated are developed wisely and implemented in ways which demonstrate the respect which they seek to promote. It is this, which makes the task so urgent for every European nation and for the shared European space. The goal of the Forum is to give impetus to a European dialogue on the direction of a new model in education to deal with religious difference, moving from passive toleration and mutual misunderstanding to active appreciation and accommodation of religious difference, without surrendering the goal of a shared citizenship.
The target audience consists largely of academics and senior decision-makers in education and the European political and administrative arena dealing with this issue. The President of the European Council, Mr Herman van Rompuy, has agreed to speak at the conference.