Cultural and religious illiteracy are not new themes in the national academic discussion, but only recently have certain initiatives set their aims at understanding their causes and then attempted to bring a debate about these issues out of academia and into the real world. The percentage of functional illiterates in Italy is significant, and its effect causes hardship and social conflict. The issue is no longer strictly linked to the need to simply bring literacy to the population, but rather it extends to the inability to help the population master the processes of knowledge acquisition and the skills to generate social communication, socio-economic well-being and cultural growth. Religious illiteracy contributes to intensifying these problems within a pluralistic, multi-denominational and multi-religious society, slowing down the mechanisms of integration, citizen participation and the sharing of public space. This is the result of a process that is first and foremost historical. In this context, the work of historians can and must relate how illiteracy today is experienced as the result of antagonisms and misconceptions. It also expresses the will to create niches in order to differentiate. Even to discriminate.
The first phase of FSCIRE’s commitment to this theme produced a volume that, while using the language of a variety of specific specialized fields, is able to have an influence on decision-making processes within a less-specialized, general public and to foster improved debate among legislators, teachers, and social agents. The Report on religious illiteracy in Italy (Bologna, Il Mulino, 2014) is set forth as an instrument to pose questions, outline strategies and contextualize the issue of the absence of a religious dimension in educational processes on a national and international scale. We have produced the report in full knowledge that there are already many excellent studies in Italy that have confronted this problem. These studies have had diverse outcomes, and we have drawn on these studies and outcomes in order to offer a bold proposal. Setting aside the debate over the hour of religious instruction in schools (which is an open issue but only a part of the phenomenon we wish to outline), the lack of religious matter in school programs has produced – and continues to produce – difficulties in the social and cultural order that cannot be traced back by an analysis strictly linked to a single discipline. For this reason, it is important to pose multidisciplinary questions and find interdisciplinary solutions.
PARs – Portale di formazione e informazione per il contrasto dell’analfabetismo religioso
We have, therefore, chosen a theoretical and content-based approach. Thanks to the contributions of jurists, theologians, historians, sociologists, experts in political affairs and educators, this volume formulates an organic reflection on aspects of cultural and religious illiteracy that have challenged the educational system. In addition, the profound changes in the Italian religious landscape are an added challenge to the methodological and disciplinary character of our new social and institutional frontiers. With a view to combating religious illiteracy, FSCIRE is also a partner of the PARs project, born from an idea of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, aiming to create a portal dedicated to knowledge and training on religions. The portal seeks to collect contents from studies and surveys on religions in the world, and it is a candidate to become a reference point of easy, authoritative access, of high scientific quality, for users dealing with the religious phenomenon. Students, teachers, specialists, journalists or simply interested and curious people are invited to use the contents and to share their proposals for learning paths.
Contributors: Francesca Cadeddu, Maria Stella Grandi, Laura Righi, Luca Villa.
Historical Dictionary of Religious Diversity
FSCIRE contributes to the research conducted by the Department of Education and Human Sciences of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia towards the publication of the Historical Dictionary of Religious Diversity. The Dictionary is part of the research project Representing Religious Diversity in Europe: Past and Present Features, that was recognized by the Italian Ministry of Research as a project of national research interest (PRIN 2017). The aim of the research is to detect and understand the language and (self) representation of religious diversity in Europe during the last century through a) the textual sources, traditions, doctrines and practices of the faith communities living in Europe; b) the historical dynamics that characterise the juridical and institutional dimensions of these communities, as well as c) the ways and means of their relationship with the public, political and social realms.
Contributor: Francesca Cadeddu.
Atlas of Religious or Belief Minorities Rights in European Countries
The project’s aim is to establish an online Atlas of the rights of religious minorities and beliefs in the member states of the European Council and to provide a general overview of the social and legal status of minority rights. Through an interactive format, the reader will also have access to data and information regarding specific countries, religious groups and fields of rights. Each map will include a brief text that positions it within its historical-social context. The Atlas will be updated every three years and is designed to offer an easy-to-read and comparative description of the status of religious minorities in the countries of the European Council (EC). It will allow for comparison of the different degrees of minority protection provided by each member state, the legal status of each minority group (both within a state and within every other member state), and the specific fields of rights that are in play (both across and within EC member states). Specific attention will be devoted to the implementation of rights with the aim of reducing the gap between formal rights and the actual enjoyment of those rights.
The reader will be able to select an individual right, a country and a field of rights (e.g. education) and obtain the information about the legal and social status that the minority in a given country enjoys and in the field(s) germane to that minority’s legal and social status. The reader may also obtain a comparative overview of the rights enjoyed by each minority in a country (or group of countries), as well as a comparative overview of the rights of a specific religious minority in all the countries of the EC. These research tools may be further combined to obtain a wide variety of data and information sought by the reader.
The Atlas will also provide a reliable system for “measuring” the implementation of the rights of religious minorities. Based on the answers to two questionnaires, one for legal experts and the other for representatives of the minority groups, a combination of indicators will be developed relating to minority rights that will provide for the assessment of each country.
A collection of maps and other visual tools on the rights of religious minorities offers at least two beneficial elements that books dealing with the same issue may not provide. First, it helps to visualize for the reader what would otherwise require an extensive text in oder to explain it. Secondly, the maps can be combined to show the interweaving and overlapping of the various elements of the issue of minority rights, thus reflecting its complexity far more effectively than a more basic book could present. Therefore, it is foreseeable that teachers, scholars, politicians, diplomats, NGO activists, minority representatives, and so on, will use the Atlas to acquire a greater awareness of the social and legal status of minorities. The readers will be capable of identifying the issues, countries and areas where the protection of minority rights must be improved and reinforced.
To date, there are atlases of national or linguistic minorities; there are, however, no atlases dedicated to the experiences of religious minorities.
Contributor: Alessia Passarelli.
Islamic Theologies of Religions: the Historical Development of Fundamental Concepts
The Qur’ān justifies contrasting approaches towards the religious other: the pluralistic approach and the exclusivist one. This research aims to investigate how Muslims have tried to resolve this interpretative conflict throughout history and until today. The study starts from historical material in order to elaborate a critical reading of traditional methodologies, using new hermeneutical tools. The basic concepts are: 1) the People of the Book (Ahl al-kitāb); 2) the abrogation (nasḫ) of previous religions; 3) the falsification (taḥrīf) of previous Scriptures. The origin of each concept and its semantic development is studied in the different historical phases: a) the Qur’ān; b) the Tradition; c) classical Islamic sciences; d) modern and contemporary Islamic thought. These concepts have seen movements of expansion and contraction in their historical development, with changes in the meaning and the doctrinal and social function. The ultimate goal of the research is to develop a new Islamic theology of religious diversity, with a critical look at the past and in dialogue with world theologies.
Contributor Adnane Mokrani.