The aim of the article is to add a religious studies perspective to the recent debates on the establishment of religion in public space. In light of this background, it highlights the global dimension of the corresponding processes by analyzing the early developments of religious non-governmental organizations formally accredited to the United Nations organization (UN). Based upon three case analyses—the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, Pax Romana, and the Friends World Committee for Consultation—the article presents a two-fold argument. On the one hand, it makes the point that these organizations started out to approach the UN context in quite distinct ways drawing upon core ideas of their respective tradition in order to frame their activities. On the other hand, they adapted to the structures of the UN in order to act efficiently. This triggered shifts in the internal boundaries between the religious and the secular.
The article sketches the overall layout of the thematic issue of the ‘Journal of Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Societies (JRAT)’ on Interreligious Dialogue (IRD) in context. It argues that an analysis of Interreligious Dialogue-activities in their socio-cultural contexts helps to counterbalance the long-standing individualistic bias of IRD-research. First, it presents a systematic description of the present state of the art that distinguishes two strands of IRD-research. Second, it argues for a European comparison, based upon the most recent findings from the ‘SMRE – Swiss Metadatabase of Religious Affiliation in Europe’. The article closes with references to the structure of the present volume of JRaT to facilitate such a comparison.
On the basis of the articles presented in the thematic issue of the ‘Journal of Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Societies (JRAT)’, this article reflects upon the structures of Interreligious Dialogue (IRD) in Europe. On the one hand, it proposes to have a closer look at regional patterns of religions in public space, at sub-national patterns of IRD-activities as well as different social forms of IRD-activities. On the other hand, it makes the point that research has to critically re-assess concepts such as the Dialogue-Movement as well as religious plurality for the study of IRD-activities.
This article proposes secularization theory as a tool to better understand the rationale of IRD-activities. To make this point, it starts with a review of present-day secularisation theories. On this basis, the article presents an analysis of the concept of the secular used in the context of the so-called ‘1893 – World’s Parliament of Religions’. In a final step, the author argues that IRD-activities have to be understood on the basis of an implicit juxtaposition of ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’. They try to present a ‘religious voice’ as a response to a context perceived as being secular.
With regards to the religious situation, Germany still is a highly divided country. This draws our attention to the specific characteristics of IRD-activities in the eastern parts of Germany. Based on literature review and mapping exercises, we will argue, firstly, that the interreligious dialogue scene in East Germany is characterized by a comparatively low density of activities that are primarily embedded into major religious and state-related organizational structures. Secondly, we will discuss potential explanations of this lower dialogue level with regards to present-day socio-cultural differences and asymmetries between East and West Germany. Thirdly, we argue that the case of East Germany gives evidence to pay particular attention to numerically smaller religious groups within IRD as well as religiously unaffiliated parts of society. Consequently, we have to rethink the conceptualization of IRD in view of secularization as the dominant tendency in many European countries.