Relevance of the topic
In most European countries we have long assumed that increasing secularisation would lead to a gradual retreat of religion from public space. This tendency has reversed itself in the course of the past decade as religion returned into public discourse. Regardless of the wide variety of conditions prevailing in different European countries it appears more and more important to study the increasingly influential factor of "religion and religiosity" and its ambivalent potential for both dialogue and social conflict and tension.
Since 11 September 2001, the dangers arising from religious isolation and confrontation and the instrumentalisation of religion for political purposes have become clear to a wider public. However, religious values can equally serve as the foundation of the peaceful coexistence of various religions and to justify respect for the human dignity of others, regardless of their religious and political convictions. They can thus act as a pillar for civility. We must increasingly seek dialogue with all that can aid us in preventing conflict and supporting peaceful coexistence in a multireligious society. This also requires efforts in intercultural and interreligious education, Hasenclever (following Appleby) even extends the claim that a positive correlation between religious education and political conduct can be shown.
The lesser the degree of religious education is, the greater the potential is for religious differences to be instrumentalised as a tool for political mobilisation . A new study by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia shows empirical support for this . This makes religious education a vital field within which this question can be addressed: The degree to which religion serves (or could potentially be made to serve) as a criterion of exclusion or prejudice in schools and universities must be investigated as well as to what degree religious discourse and dialogue in education can promote potentials for the peaceful coexistence of people in Europe. This is especially important regarding people of different cultural and religious backgrounds for whom we need to map out educational strategies to learn from each other rather than perpetuate divisions.