Aims and History

Aims and History of EFTRE

Aims of EFTRE

EFTRE is an organisation that was founded to foster international cooperation of teachers of Religious Education across Europe. All those involved in RE – teachers, teacher trainers and RE organisations are warmly encouraged to join our EFTRE ‘family’. We offer a forum for everyone to share their experiences, to develop good practice and to learn from one another in a friendly and supportive way. EFTRE also works to strengthen and promote the position of RE in schools in its member countries and in Europe in general.

History of EFTRE

Seurakuntaopisto building in Järvenpää, Finland.
Seurakuntaopisto in Järvenpää, Finland.
Photo by Hannu Harri, Public domain.

EFTRE (The European Forum for Teachers of Religious Education) started with a conference in Helsinki in Finland in 1980 entitled, “New Religious Movements” in response to the changing religious landscape of Europe and the change in teaching and learning as well as a support for Finnish RE. Drawing on the Scandinavian traditions of the sociology of religions the conference was hosted at the institute of practical theology in Helsinki. At the beginning EFTRE was mostly composed of University lecturers in Religion and Theology or in Teacher Education. A triennial (once every three years) conference was organised and for the first years of EFTRE’s life this took place in Scandinavia – in Nybørg (Denmark), Linköping (Sweden) before moving a little further south in 1989 to take place in Heeswijk-Dinther in the Netherlands. The first chair of EFTRE was Mikael Holt (Denmark). 

The proceedings of the York conference were published by the Comenius Institute in Münster beginning a long relationship between EFTRE and other groups involved in inter-religious dialogue around Europe. Ironically given the current debates 40 years later the main theme of the York conference (1992) was on the environmental perspectives of five major world religions. Further conferences followed in Hamburg (Germany) in 1995 and a new chair Carin Laudrup welcomed us in Københaven (Denmark) in 1998 and then to Edinburgh (Scotland) in 2001 where the now chair, Jeremy Taylor (UK) addressed over 100 delegates to the conference focused on the new millennium – which explored the state of RE in Europe at the beginning of the third Christian millennium.

In the 2000s the conference moved back to its starting place in Finland at Järvenpää, looking at the person in religion; for the first time in the East in Budapest in 2007 looking at RE and citizenship where our fourth chair Sonja Danner (Austria) welcomed delegates. In 2010 we met in Bruges (Belgium) exploring social inclusion and in 2013 we were back in Scandinavia in Malmö (Sweden) in a conference on dealing with difference. 2016 saw us in Vienna at the bridge between East and West with our fifth chair Lesley Prior. 2019 saw us on the Western edge of Europe in Dublin with a conference on reconciling realities.

Whilst the main focus of EFTRE has always been bringing people together at the triennial conferences there has also been the development of awareness and conscious raising about the similarities and differences of the teaching of religions across different parts of the European continent and alongside the conferences there has been work in schools, people exchanges and publications as well as representation on other groups such as ISREV, CoGREE and EAWRE (The European Association for World Religions in Education).

Whilst always a small organisation EFTRE has, over the last 40 years of its existence, brought together teachers, teacher educators and academics from a wide range of countries and allowed dialogue  discussion and debate.

Paul Hopkins, EFTRE member and former board member and webmaster