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Anna Halafoff

Abstract

Interfaith youth initiatives and educational programs about diverse religions in schools began to be viewed as potential social cohesion strategies, and important tools in countering extremism, following the July 2005 London bombings when concerns about the radicalisation of Muslim youth and fears of home-grown terrorism became prevalent in many so-called Western societies. The global interfaith movement had already grown significantly in the usA, the uk and Australia since September 11, 2001, given the movement’s longstanding commitment to promoting positive interreligious relations, countering prejudices and addressing global risks and injustices. This chapter presents the findings of a study of young people participating in InterAction, an Australian interfaith youth movement founded in 2009, and is focused on their religious identities and views on religion and education. The data gathered indicates that interreligious youth initiatives and education about worldviews and religions can play a role in advancing interreligious understanding, and social inclusion in religiously diverse societies. It also demonstrates that young people’s complex lived experiences of religious diversity, and construction of religious identity, need to be considered in the development of such programs and in contemporary critical research on religious diversity.

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Anna Halafoff and Laura Gobey

This chapter interrogates the prevalent view that young Australians are religiously ambivalent and disengaged, displaying a “whatever” approach to religious diversity. It draws on data gathered from the first scholarly research project to have been conducted on InterAction, an Australian multifaith youth organization founded and directed by young people with both religious and non-religious worldviews. The research project’s primary aim was to investigate the role of multifaith youth engagement and education about religions and worldviews in advancing social inclusion and countering extremism in and beyond Australia. This chapter focuses on the project’s second aim, to explore the religious identities of the young people involved in this multifaith network and how they influenced their levels of social engagement. In so doing it provides new insights to the study of youth, religion and identity more broadly, on characteristics of hybridity, mobility, commitment, questioning, and interconnectivity, that may also be applicable to other contexts beyond Australia.

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Emma Tomalin, Caroline Starkey and Anna Halafoff

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Gary D. Bouma, Douglas Ezzy, Anna Halafoff and Adam Possamai