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Religious Toleration and Peace

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Looking to the past: Docutube helps teens think, reflect and discuss religion

Researchers use the learning with history approach to promote religious and convictional toleration among European young people.

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Today, many of the narratives on Europe feature conflicting views on the relationship between religion and society. The historical dimensions of these narratives have also been largely overlooked. A greater understanding of these dimensions as well as the representations of religious coexistence in society can promote empathy and understanding and help society overcome the challenges of religious coexistence. It can further support inclusive and reflective European societies – a key goal of the EU. Moreover, it can help break down barriers and diffuse radicalisation and extremism which have disrupted European societies, threatening peace and tolerance. Meeting this societal need is the EU-funded RETOPEA project. “With a focus on teenagers, our aim was to address the issue of religious diversity through the learning with history approach,” says Patrick Pasture, project coordinator. Supporting this goal, the project examined historical peace treaties and conflict settlements, as well as contemporary representations of religious cohabitation in culture and media.

A didactic tool for fostering tolerance and understanding of religious diversity

“Learning with history is a concept that is especially developed by didactics of history: it is used to invite young people to learn to think critically about the past and present by critically engaging with primary sources and to learn to contextualise properly, to situate a phenomenon in its contemporary context,” explains Pasture. RETOPEA used this approach to develop a didactic tool for stimulating toleration and peaceful coexistence among young people. The project also adapted it to formulate conclusions and advice to policymakers, especially for those who are engaged in interconvictional dialogue. “In the project, we use the term ‘interconvictional’ instead of interfaith or interreligious because the dialogue should not only engage religions but also people of no faith, secularists, as well as followers of non-institutionalised spiritualities,” outlines Pasture.

Giving young people a platform: the educational ‘toolkit’

Using this approach, RETOPEA developed an educational ‘toolkit’ for formal and informal educational settings (e.g. in museums, cultural centres). “We asked young people to make a short documentary – called a ‘docutube’,” explains Pasture. This was in the style of a vlog, about religious toleration and coexistence. “As part of the toolkit, we made an extensive list of ‘clippings’: short extracts from peace treaties, eventually images, with some context as a starting point for a discussion and reflection and consequently of their docutube, filmed with a camera – in practice it could also be done with a smartphone,” notes Pasture. The result provides young people with a safe space to reflect and discuss their experiences, and it also increases their historical and religious literacy and develops their media skills. Open University has also developed a badged open course to teach educators to work with the methodology.

Promoting religious tolerance early on

“We can safely conclude that the methodology, while quite time-intensive, really works and young people enjoy doing it,” reports Pasture. RETOPEA found that young people are interested in talking about religion but feel like there is hardly any opportunity to do so. “So making space for that seems really necessary. Also, they are often very wary about the public discourse and the way religion is portrayed in the media,” adds Pasture. Overall, the project’s approach paves the way for teenagers to think about religious cohabitation in a more nuanced, empathic way. “RETOPEA thus contributes to preventing radicalisation, improving ways of dealing with interconvictional conflict and promoting a more harmonious society,” concludes Pasture.

Keywords

RETOPEA, young people, religion, learning with history, docutube, toleration, religious and convictional toleration, tolerance, radicalidation, extremism

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