Pluralism is inescapable in today’s modern societies, whether it is of a cultural, social, political, or religious nature. It is praised as the defining feature of modernity and decried as an impossible ideal. A violent backlash against pluralism has been fueled by nostalgic forces who lament their loss of supremacy atop the social hierarchy. The Theologies and Practices of Religious Pluralism project convenes a team of international scholars to provide original insights on the often-ignored transformations that modern pluralism has forced upon all religions, challenging their theology and practices.
The project investigates current debates and issues on pluralism within and across religious traditions and how some of these debates are reshaping the status of religion in different public spaces. These adaptations have a profound impact on international relations and daily life in every society, across cultural, ethnic, racial divides.
Two kick-off online workshops (June and July 2021) paved the way to start reflecting on the relationship between pluralism with Islam and Christianity. Based on these workshops, the first in-person events of the project took place in June 2022: Birmingham and Bologna (see below).
In the meantime, another work package started addressing Judaism in collaboration with the Haifa Laboratory for Religious Studies (February 2023). We are currently preparing a seminar in Sarajevo for November 2023 with a double purpose: on the one hand to follow up on the Birmingham meeting and on the other hand to start discussing cross-cutting issues affecting religions with all actors.”
This initiative is jointly promoted by Reset DOC (Italy), Reset Dialogues (US), the University of Birmingham (UK), the Berkeley Center at Georgetown University (US), the Foundation for Religious Sciences in Bologna and Palermo (Italy) and the Haifa Laboratory for Religious Studies (Israel).
These are the key research questions that the project seeks to address:
–> How have religious traditions adjusted to the increasing social and religious diversity induced by globalization and migration?
–> What is the place that religious differences occupy inside each faith?
–> How much has each religious tradition engaged or not in missionary activities, opened or not to dialogue, tolerance, inclusion, or oriented itself to fight, exclude, or reject Otherness as a sin, a mistake, or idolatry?
–> What is the tension between the theory of “the best religion” and the acceptance of the truth in other religions?
–> In its first two years (2022-2024), the program will examine pluralism in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Each religious tradition will be discussed in a series of workshops (or work packages) devoted to the topics specific to the respective religion. The second phase will examine and compare results by convening seminars across each religious tradition.
Conferences and seminars
Two online kick-off workshops (June and July 2022) opened the way to begin reflecting on the relationship between pluralism with Islam and Christianity. Bulding on them, the first in-person project events took place in June 2022.
Workpackage on Islam and Pluralism – University of Birmingham
Since its inception, the Islamic theology has acknowledged religious difference. The Medina constitution is a unique example of “pluralistic theocracy” where the Prophet Mohammed and the nascent Islamic community acknowledged in their midst, the People of the previous monotheistic revelations (Ahl Al Kitab).
This acknowledgement should not be mistaken with the secular understanding of pluralism: it was hierarchical, with limited/little recognition for the space of non-monotheistic religions within the nascent Islamic community. Nevertheless, throughout history, Islam has had lengthy encounters with other religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, given that two-thirds of Muslims live in South and Southeast Asia. The concept of Ahl al-Kitab, and the related ahl al-Dhimma, has therefore been extended to include other groups besides those mentioned.
Another historic feature of Islamic pluralism is the internal diversity of religious opinions within the Sunni tradition with the continued existence of four major schools of jurisprudence and their recognition of acceptable differences or ikhtilaf. At the same time, Sunni-Shia dynamics have always been a sensitive political issue impacting theologies and practices of negotiating the diversity and plurality inherent within Islam. Nonetheless, most of the scholarly attention has been to consider how reflection within the Islamic tradition deals with inter-religious diversity, rather than its intra-religious diversity.
Developed during the 2 day-workshop in Birmingham. Read more here.
Workpackage on Christianities – FSCIRE / European Academy of Religion
Major historical events such as the East and West Schism or the Reformation have impacted the Christian understanding of religious diversity from the West and beyond. The creation of the Ecumenical movement(s) and the Second Vatican Council initiated shifts in thinking about religious diversity among Christians as well as the regime of truth of other religious traditions. On the other hand, we witness the “reverse mission” of Christians (mainly Pentecostals) from outside the West bringing back the Gospel into a secularized world. Additionally, globalization has accelerated the religious pluralism of historical Christian minorities as well as their increased visibility in Western countries (see for instance the Orthodox Diasporas or the Protestant denominations).
Developed during a full day conference in the framework of the European Academy of Religion in Bologna. Read more here.
Workpackage on Judaism – Haifa Laboratory for Religious Studies
Articles, videos and debates
A dedicated platform to host all the multimedia contents produced by this multi-year reflection project will be launched soon. Stay tuned for more.