New report reveals teaching religion in our schools reduces extremism

August 22, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Religious Education in schools can strengthen multi-culturalism and reduce extremism in our wider communities, according to a new report.

Dr Suzanne Rutland

The report found schools offering Special Religious Education (SRE), Religious Instruction (RI) and General Religious Education (GRE) were ideal settings “for children to develop an understanding of peace and tolerance”.

“The goal of teaching students how to live harmoniously with others in a contemporary and diverse society is a pillar of modern education,” said the report, How in-faith religious education strengthens social cohesion in multicultural Australia.

“Multicultural education is a key instrument in achieving this.

“Segregated religious education classes can provide a safe place for children from different religious backgrounds to discuss topics affecting their own religious group.”

The report was written by world-renowned academics Professor Zehavit Gross (the UNESCO/Burg Chair in Education in Human Values, Tolerance and Peace at Bar-Ilan University, Israel) and Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland, of the University of Sydney.

Professor Gross and Professor Rutland will today (August 20) be presenting a lecture on the findings at Parliament House in Sydney.

The report highlighted the recent mass shootings in New Zealand, suicide bombings in Sri Lanka and the San Diego synagogue shooting as potential topics of discussion among students.

“(For example), religious education teachers could discuss the fear and concern which affected Muslim, Christian and Jewish students in Australia,” the report found.

“Removing in-faith education from government schools detracts from the government’s multicultural aims by denying students a crucial avenue to explore their own religious identity and heritage.”

The report found SRE and GRE played a key role in “dismantling stereotypes and strengthening social cohesion”.

Professor Gross said the belief that religion is irrelevant in a postmodern world is a myth.

“Religion continues to play a major role in our public life and acknowledges the legitimate spiritual needs of each individual.

Professor Rutland said religious belief and spirituality provide students with an anchor for their individual identities and contribute meaning to their lives.

“A strong grounding in one’s individual identity, combined with knowledge of other religions, helps to combat extremism by teaching respect for diversity.”

Christian SRE CEO Murray Norman said it was vital students were provided with a “safe place” to explore their religious identities.

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