Communicating religion - a question of clarity : Exploring the Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec (2008) 12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the dimension of religions and non-religious convictions within intercultural education
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The Council of Europe is engaged in promoting education for democratic citizenship through an intercultural education approach. Within this approach is a religious dimension. A Recommendation by the Committee of Ministers was issued in 2008: ‘The Recommendation CM/Rec (2008) 12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the dimension of religions and non-religious convictions within intercultural education’. This is a policy document on how to introduce the concept in education policies, institutions and the development of teacher training. The aim of the Recommendation is to ensure the dimension of religions and non-religious convictions within intercultural education is accepted as a contribution to strengthen human rights, democratic citizenship and participation, and to the development of competences for intercultural dialogue. The study is an exploration of the communication on religion described in the above policy document. An interpretative approach was used to search for different meanings of ‘religion’ and ‘religious dimension’. A tentative impression was that different actors had employed diverging meanings of the concepts in the Recommendation, and that this resulted in a textual tension in the document. A document analysis was performed with tools from domain analysis and text revision theory with an appreciation of how discourses are established. The Recommendation was compared with a draft version and supplementary material. The analysis was interpretative and focused on meaning and intention. A theoretical discussion followed with the aim of seeing how discourses on religion and society were reflected in the Recommendation. The analysis showed that there had been many amendments to the text. These appeared as adjustments and conceptually new meanings of policy. Traces of different discourses were found, especially on ‘religion’ and ‘religion as a cultural fact’. Partial, rather than complete replacements of concepts, resulted in a lack of clarity in the Recommendation and uncertainty regarding Council of Europe Policy on the role and place of religion. ‘Religion’ was for instance defined both including and excluding secular worldviews. ‘Religion as a cultural fact’ and ‘religions and non-religious convictions as cultural facts’, were used intermittently in an inconsistent manner in the Recommendation and its Explanatory Memorandum. The conclusion was that there is a textual tension in the Recommendation. I suggest that the alterations that were presented in the analysis might be a result of the background of the various contributors to the writing and editing process. There is also reason to question whether the intention of the Council of Europe in paying attention to an increasing religious diversity through building competence for dialogue is maintained. The Council recognised that the earlier lack of attention to the importance of religion and values for individual and social identity had to be reversed in order to build a cohesive society. I suggest that the introduction of ‘non-religious convictions’ is blurring this intention. The communication on religion does not display the clarity that would seem required in order to promote the project of learning about religion and values in an intercultural education approach.