Conference in Vienna 2016

The XIIIth EFTRE Conference in Vienna 2016

Believing, Belonging and Behaving – Challenges for Religious Education in the C21st

The XIIIth EFTRE / CoGREE conference was held in Vienna from August 31st to September 3rd, 2016. The keynote speakers for the conference were:

  • Prof. Dr Paul ZULEHNER – Context
  • Dr Peter SCHREINER – Policy
  • Prof. Denise CUSH – Research
  • Prof. Bert ROEBBEN – Practice

It was a wonderful chance for those involved in teaching Religious Education, or teaching teachers about religious education or those who research religious education to meet, dialogue, debate and enjoy.

For more information please contact us.

Keynote Speakers

Keynote Lecture 1 [Context]

Emeritus Prof. Dr. Paul M. Zulehner, University of Vienna
Introduced by Sonja Danner

Religion in modern Austrian Culture: In Austria the Constantine Era is definitely over and the ideological field is in transition. In the past, to be born a Catholic in Austria was a matter of tradition. Now, every citizen is free to choose to identify with any belief system that they wish and this choice becomes a positive statement not a default one. The result of this development is not, however, a secularized culture, but an ideologically “multi-coloured” one. Therefore, citizens of modern pluralistic societies need a highly developed tolerance for plurality (“Pluralitätstoleranz”). This will be explored by using the example of the relationship of Austrian citizens to Muslims and Muslim culture.

Keynote Lecture 2 [Policy]

Dr Peter Schreiner, Director of the Comenius-Institute
Introduced by Elisabeth Faber

Religious Education and Education Policy in a European context: Religious Education has become an increasingly significant issue in European Education Policy in recent years. At national level there are also important debates about the place and the purpose of Religious Education in state schools and possible pedagogical approaches to the subject. This presentation will cover relevant developments in the Council of Europe, and the European Union as well as in selected national contexts. The Europeanisation of Religious Education not only has implications in individual settings but also provides valuable opportunities for exchange and encounter in the wider European RE community.

Keynote Lecture 3 [Research]

Professor Denise Cush, Bath Spa University
Introduced by Lesley Prior

The Changing Religious Landscape in Europe and some implications for religious education: The religious landscape in Europe is becoming more diverse and more secular, while Christianity, though losing traditional dominance, is still an important influence. Religion is in the news, and portrayed as dangerous as well as benign. Those identifying as ‘non-religious’ may be anything from atheist humanists through to ‘spiritual’ or personally religious. Newer forms of religiosity such as Paganism are growing, and feminist, queer, postcolonial, non-realist and fundamentalist interpretations of religion add to the complexity. With calls for improved ‘religious literacy’, how can religious education best enable young people to engage with current and future religious change?

Keynote Lecture 4 [Practice]

​Professor Dr Hubertus (Bert) Roebben, University of Dortmund
Introduced by Hugo Verkest

Generating hope for Europe: on praxis and promise of tomorrow’s RE professionals: It goes without saying that Europe is confronted with a deep moral and spiritual crisis; and although the school will not be the ultimate lever to change this situation, religious education can at least offer a safe space, an oasis of spirituality (believing), community (belonging) and orientation (behaving) for children and young people. What kind of communicative praxis is therefore needed in RE? What kind of personal (professional-spiritual) competences can be expected from the RE professional? And to what extent can he/she also come to terms with the boundaries of the profession and with the eschatological dimension of his/her work at all?​

Conference Reflections

Dave Francis
Chaired by Lesley Prior


  1. The READY project – Religious Education and Diversity – Peter Kliemann (Germany)
  2. Safe Spaces – Hugo Verkest (Belgium)
  3. Science and Religion – Eszter Kodácsy-Simon (Hungary)
  4. Music, Literature and Religion – Henk Pol (Nederland)
  5. The religious education of the RE teacher – Sandra Cullen (Ireland) 
  6. Read the Picture – Essi Ikonen (Finland)
  7. ​Technology in Religious Education – Philip Lord (Wales)
  8. Dealing with controversial issues – Norman Richardson (Northern Ireland)
  9. ​Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning – Hugodu Durinck (Belgium)
  10. Construction and deconstruction of the national tests in Religious Education in Sweden: lessons to be learned? – Annika Lindskog ​(Sweden)
  11. Believing, Belonging and Behaving Seen Through the Lenses of Postmodern Religious Criticism 
    Dorthe Enger (Denmark)
  12. Human Rights Education Monika Bayer (Austria)

Workshop No.1
The READY project – Religious Education and Diversity

Prof Dr Peter Kliemann (Germany)

READY stands for Religious Education in Diversity and is an Erasmus+ project. The READY project explores sharing experiences of, and approaches to, teacher education in the context of ‘Education and Training 2020’ (READY). Teacher training institutions in Austria (Martin Fischer), England (Dr Jo Pearce), Germany (Drs Peter Schreiner and Peter Kliemann), Scotland (Dr Graeme Nixon and David Smith) and Sweden (Kerstin von Bromssen and Kristian Niemi) will explore the topic ‘Religion and Diversity’ in two respects: (i) the mutual exchange of diverse forms of Religious Education and (ii) the variety of approaches to subject teaching and learning, in which the question of religious heterogeneity will be considered and discussed. The results will be examined and proposals for teaching Religion and Diversity in Europe will be published. In this workshop members of the READY consortium will present on the work of the project to date and invite participants to reflect on their teacher education and current work in relation to diversity.

Workshop No.2
Chronos & Kairos in relation to damaged belonging and behaving

Hugo Verkest (Belgium)

’Erbarme dich’ was the slogan of a festival organised by a Classical Radio station in Belgium. The poster and the clip could be used for a hermeneutic approach about suffering, compassion and comfort. Is it a coincidence that this festival was performed in Brussels? After attacks of pointless violence and terror there is always a collective need to express the desire of unity and security. Our circles of environment (A. Depuydt) are infected by fear and despair. Are (social) media, civic movements, religious organisations caregivers and curators of these tragedies?

We want to find out which kind of stories are good enough to comfort people – especially pupils -, which kind of mindset and how to deal with the contrast-experiences in our local and global communication. Bestselling novelists as Elif Shafak, Griet Op de Beeck, Jeanette Winterson and Eric- Emmanuel Schmitt can offer us some verbal antidotes. What is the role of silence and the chronos of silence? What is the symbolic meaning of 1 minute silence (M. Van den berg)? Can silence lead us to Kairos (H. Verbeek, C. Bonneure, J.J. Hermsen )?

We could collect around 77 testimonies of students doing their practice just after November 13. In this interactive workshop we will present a model that we worked out in cooperation with the data of the students. What is the role of sounds and stories? Is this a model that we can use in other circumstances? Is silence the glue between believing, belonging and behaving? Is the 1 minute silence a typical western symbolic action? How do other traditions ‘play’ with silence?

We will investigate how other traditions and religions deal with silence in relation to public suffering.

Hugo Verkest is a senior lecturer at the University College VIVES situated in the Flemish part of Belgium. He has worked here for more than 20 years and is responsible for day and evening courses in didactics at the teacher training college. Ten years ago he started with optional courses of peace and value education and Remembrance Education in relation to World War I and genocides. He is also intervention in cultural and linguistic diversity and RE.

Workshop No.3
Science and Religion in RE classes

Dr Eszter Kodácsy-Simon (Hungary)

The relationship between science and religion is fascinating in itself, but has, additionally, a special innate factor in the classroom.

What are the things that we should when students raise questions about the connection between science and religion?

How can we avoid promoting an unreal and split state where science and religion are alien to each other without confusing them?

In our discussion we will set these topics with special focus on the historical background of the conference venue. These will include concepts such as verification and falsification – two methodological procedures that received emphasis from the “Vienna Circle” and which makes an interesting contribution to our science and religion dialogue.

Eszter Kodácsy-Simon graduated as a mathematics, physics and RE teacher, and studied in Budapest, Helsinki and at the “Zygon” Center for Science and Religion in Chicago. She is the leader of the department of RE at the Lutheran Theological University in Budapest and of the RE working group of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary. She is also a board member of EFTRE, the editor and author of RE books and materials and a regular lecturer in schools, congregations and conferences.

Workshop No.4
Music, Literature and Religion

Prof. Henk Pol (Nederlands)

In search of identity, seems to be the theme of the 2012 Tommy Wieringa’s Dutch novel:, Dit zijn de namen, 2012 (English translation These are the names by Sam Garrett). The story tells us about deceived refugees, thinking they crossed a border in search of new life. Another story twisted into the first is the story of Pontus Beg, searching for his (probable) Jewish identity. The name of the novel refers to the Bible book Exodus (the Jewish name of the book).

​In our workshop we can discuss the story itself (an abstract in English is available), the important modern days theme of refugees, relating to the search for identity and further on possibilities to use novels in RE. One possibility: modern day oppression in the lives of young people and possibilities of liberation.

Henk Pol (theologian)has retired as professor of education at Stenden University of Applied Sciences. He has experience in teaching in elementary and secondary school as well as teaching in teacher training. He taught theology at University (New Testament and Church History). He did research how Christian tradition can relate to education. In Dutch he published about exegesis and hermeneutics, about church history, and about modern Western culture.

Workshop No.5
The religious education of the RE teacher

Dr Sandra Cullen (Ireland)

The question at the heart of the enterprise called religious education is ‘what are we educating for?’ The why, what for, and for whom, must precede the how. This becomes especially relevant when we ask ‘what constitutes an appropriate religious education for teachers of RE?’ In our conversation we will reflect on (i) how we engage in our own religious education and (ii) consider a number of principles that can inform an appropriate religious education for teachers of religious education.

Sandra Cullen taught R.E. and English at second-level schools before taking up a lecturing post in Religious Education at Mater Dei Institute of Education (MDI). She is a graduate of Mater Dei Institute, Boston College and DCU. Sandra is a Staff member of the Irish Centre for Religious Education (ICRE) and serves on the Board of (EFTRE). She is also a member of the REA and ISREV. She is regularly invited to speak at events for teachers and at parish and diocesan gatherings and is the author of a number of publications in RE​.

Workshop No.6
Read this Picture!

Essi Ikonen (Finland)

Pictures are all around us. They are used more and more as a means of communication especially in social media but also in more formal contexts. For pedagogical purposes pictures provide a fascinating and powerful tool for example for motivation and development of multi-literacy skills. The development of technological applications provide good facilities for pedagogically meaningful use of pictures.

​However, the ability to recognize age old symbols has decreased across centuries. In addition, critical reading of pictures as well as knowledge of copyright issues has become an important yet underdeveloped skill. Pedagogically meaningful use of pictures and the use of technological applications as a means for this require time and effort from teachers. In this workshop we take a look at some ways how to use pictures in a pedagogically meaningful way. The participant is offered also concrete tips how to use some technological applications to enhance phenomenon-based learning and skills-based learning, as well as tips of existing internet resources for religious education.

​An example of the application and resource we will take a look at: Thinglink by Agricola

​To access the prezi please click on the link.

Workshop No.7
Technology in Religious Education

Philip Lord (UK: Wales)

In this session we will explore how technology can be used to enhance the teaching and learning of Religious Education. With the rise of social media and an increased use of computers and electronic devices in our daily lives we will consider the practical ways in which technology can both inspire and motivate our students. This workshop will provide lots of simple and practical examples demonstrating how technology can inspire, engage and improve pupils’ learning.

Phil Lord has a degree in Theology and a Post Graduate Certificate of Edcuation. He has worked as head of Religious Education in schools in England and Wales before securing the role of RE advisor in 2010. He has written resources for primary and secondary schools. Phil also inspects schools for Estyn, the school inspectorate service in Wales. As role of chair of WASACRE, Phil is working with Welsh Government colleagues to support the development of RE in the current currciculum review.

Photo of Norman.

Workshop No.8
Dealing with Controversial Issues

Dr Norman Richardson (UK: Northern Ireland)

Based on developing shared and inclusive approaches to teaching Religious Education in Northern Ireland, this workshop will explore how teachers may approach sensitive and controversial issues by means of kinaesthetic learning techniques. In the past such issues have often been responded to by silence or avoidance because teachers have found them uncomfortable or challenging. But strongly divergent views can also become an opportunity for deeper mutual understanding. The workshop will encourage the use of active learning techniques in order to help develop greater confidence in tackling topics in culturally and religiously diverse classroom contexts. Participants will be provided with documentation to assist them in applying the relevant principles and strategies to their own teaching situations.

Norman Richardson has taught Religious Studies and intercultural education at Stranmillis University College, Belfast, Northern Ireland, for many years. Now in semi-retirement he continues to contribute to these areas through part-time teaching and research, locally, nationally and internationally. He has also remains involved in community relations and inter-religious encounter programmes.

Workshop No.9
Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning

Hugo Durinck (Belgium)

Life skills are more deeply learned if they involve an immediate experience. In many countries schools use different names for similar programs, to raise the level of social and emotional competence in children and young people as a part of their regular education: self science, social development, personal intelligences, affective education, life-keys or life-styles. Through exercises and reflexion, a set of skills and understandings, pupils learn more about themselves and their communication. Many of these courses come from ongoing prevention programs, against smoking, drugs, pregnancy, dropping out and violence. These programs are more effective when they could develop emotional and social competences, such as impulse control, managing anger, and finding creative solutions. This carrying for yourself and others could best be trained in the class-group, regularly and over a period of years. This could be a important part of the lessons of RE. The pupils have their view on life, they belong to this generation and become responsible for their behaving. RE is not only knowledge, but also emotional literacy and expression.

Hugo Durinck works half of the time in secondary schools in Belgium to teach RE: life views, personal development, morals, social problems and philosophy and the other half in the teacher training at the University College in Ghent. He is especially interested in emotional intelligence (Goleman) and Eastern philosophy (Libbrecht).

Workshop No.10
Whose faith and whose identity? Testing religious issues in school?

Annika Lindskog (Sweden) and Olof Franck (Sweden)

Is it possible to test religious issues without breaking up with the core of religious faith? What happens when matters of faith are made the object of a pedagogical dissection, described in supposedly impartial terms? What may occur when more or less complex dogmas and belief-sentences are made the objects of distanced questions intending to capture knowledge with reference to the wording in the core content and the knowledge requirements in a syllabus?

In this workshop we will start by critically discussing some items from the first National Tests in RE from 2013. The discussions will establish a platform for further reflection and analysis, and together we will try to compose some items that might capture the core of religious belief at the same time as they satisfy pedagogical and subject matter demands with reference to the syllabus.

Annika Lindskog is a lecturer and PhD-student in Didactics of Religion at the University of Gothenburg. She has been involved in the process of re-writing the syllabi for RE in accordance with the Swedish school reforms in 2011. She is chairperson for the Swedish Association for Teachers in RE and until the autumn of 2015, she was the project leader for the national tests in RE.

Olof Franck is Associate Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Senior Lecturer in Subject Matter Education in Social Studies at the Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, where he also is Assistant Head for research. He has been engaged as a subject expert by the Swedish National Agency for Education in the school reforms Lgr11 and Gy11, and in the project NIT (National IT strategies) with a focus on digital competence in Swedish policy documents for upper secondary school. He is the author of a range of articles and books relating to philosophy of religion, religious education, ethics education, and issues regarding multicultural and gender perspectives on education.

Workshop No.11
Believing, Belonging and Behaving Seen Through the Lenses of Postmodern Religious Criticism

Dorthe Enger (Denmark)

The workshop presents postmodern religious criticism as a tool to develop worldview literacy. Many young people experience cognitive dissonance and existential confusion. What to believe, where to belong and how to behave are questions they are faced with in a global supermarket of mutually contradictory worldviews.

In religious education there is a unique possibility to present the students with tools that may help them to identify and reflect on worldviews. Postmodern religious criticism is a method that invites the students to explore the architecture of their own worldview and the worldviews presented to them in religious education. The result is worldview literacy, which is a skill that may offer them a platform of freedom and empathy, counterbalancing the temptation of rigidly held beliefs, group identification and radicalized behaviour.

Postmodern religious criticism and worldview literacy will be defined, followed by a brief presentation of premodern, modern, postmodern and fundamentalist worldviews. These worldviews have their own answers to questions of belief, belonging and behaviour. We will discuss these answers and the use of postmodern religious criticism as a tool to explore them.

Dorthe Enger teaches English and Religious Studies at Hasseris Gymnasium, Denmark. When she was employed as a principal at Niels Steensens Gymnasium, a Jesuit school in Copenhagen, she was appointed delegate to JECSE (Jesuit European Committee for Secondary Schools). She gives lectures on pedagogical, religious, philosophical themes. A focus in recent years has been religious criticism, a subject on which she has published articles and written two books.

Workshop No.12
Human Rights Education

Monika Bayer (Austria)

Following an introduction to Human Rights Education in Austria the workshop will focus on Human Rights issues of the first generation. Furthermore, I will give best practice examples of how to implement Human Rights education in different subjects using digital media effectively.

Monica Bayer Studied Educational Science, Psychology and Philosophy at Vienna University and graduated in Educational Technology from Donau University, Krems, She has a teaching degree in Roman Catholic Religious Education and is a lecturer in Educational Science and Human Rights Education at The University College of Teacher Education of Christian Churches in Vienna and Krems. She is working in collaboration with the Centre of Competence in Human Rights Education, Kija Lower Austria.

Show and Tell presentation

Gill Vaisey – Making RE fun for pupils and easy for teachers