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Values affecting majority–minority interactions

As Europe's borders continue to grow and welcome people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, research and policy development are hard-pressed to understand the dynamics contributing to conflict and cohesion. A new approach considering the role of religious, minority and gender values contributed to enhanced knowledge and understanding of the factors at play.

Climate Change and Environment

The 'Welfare and values in Europe: Transitions related to religion, minorities and gender' (WAVE) project took a novel approach to the study of how the complex relations between religion, minorities and gender act to influence social change and cohesion in a growing and diverse Europe. It is at the point where these three meet that some of the biggest transitions in value systems take place. WAVE worked on the assumption that 'cultural identities' and 'values' belong to a set of intangible concepts best understood upon examination of how they are expressed and developed in practice. As such, the EU-funded team investigated the interaction of diverse value systems in the context of welfare provision and demand as critical markers of the values of any given community. Tied to this are questions of if and how religiously informed values influence conflict or cohesion between majorities and minorities across Europe. The outcomes of WAVE research pointed to most majority-minority interaction in the domain of welfare lying in a grey area, somewhere between conflict and cohesion. Resource factors including money, space and time are operative in majority–minority interaction; more everyday factors include role of the media, immigration and employment policies and the role of professionals administering welfare policies. Project partners also uncovered different dimensions of conflict or tension and of cohesion. In the first case, there may be differences between minority groups or between different generations of the same groups. Furthermore, WAVE research delved into the very notions of conflict and cohesion, seeking to identify complex relations between the two. For example, conflict may constitute a step on the path towards longer-term cohesion. As such, through case-study reports, the project succeeded in offering indications of situations in which religiously informed values may lead to solidarity or tension. Many times, there is a conflict of interests rather than of values. Other important developments bring into question uncertainty regarding preservation of diversity and promotion of integration. There appears to be only a fine line between the two; pressure to conform to the national status quo appears to exist even in the most 'progressive' of contexts with regard to openness to difference. Linked to this, research offered insight into whether minority networks function in an integrating or segregating capacity. WAVE members generated a list of policy recommendations applicable at local, national and EU levels. and engaged with stakeholders, exchanging views and informing them about project activities and outcomes. Project partners also held the WAVE International Final Conference which contributed to dissemination of results and objectives of broad impact. Research findings have the potential to drive a new approach to minority studies, the dynamics of majority–minority relations, and welfare provision and demand in a growing Europe.

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