“Building bridges over troubled waters – RE in changing times.” This is the theme of the next EFTRE conference, which will take place from 24 to 27 August 2023. The Executive Board of EFTRE is in the middle of preparations and was able to meet in presence in November 2022 for the first time after 3 years.
In Rome, they were warmly welcomed by their Italian member organisation SNADIR (Association of Teachers of Religion in Italy) and its Executive Director Orazio Ruscica. With the Link Campus University, a beautiful location was found in the centre of Rome that invites teachers, teacher trainers as well as researchers of religious education to learn together, to share meals and exchange with each other.
More information about the venue, the programme and registration will be available soon.
CoRE report Religion and worldviews: the way forward
“The Commission on Religious Education (CoRE) has spent the last two years listening to evidence from a wide-range of concerned parties including pupils, teachers, lecturers, advisers, parents and faith and belief communities. We have received over three thousand submissions. We have been excited and encouraged by the reports of the excellent work happening day by day in many classrooms. We are, however, convinced that RE needs rejuvenating if it is to continue to make its important contribution; indeed if it is not to wither on the vine. There are three reasons for this. First is the growing diversity of religions and beliefs that pupils today encounter, both in their locality and in the media. Second is the variable quality of RE experienced by pupils across the country. Third is the fact that the legal arrangements around RE are no longer working as more schools become academies. In this, its Final Report, CoRE therefore proposes that a new National Plan for RE should be enacted to ensure that learning in this area remains academically rigorous and a knowledge-rich preparation for life in a world of great religion and belief diversity.”
Following discussions within the Executive Committee of EFTRE as to how best to respond to the conflict in Ukraine, two decisions were made. The first was to issue a statement on the EFTRE website highlighting the importance of education in developing inter-religious and intercultural understanding, and affirming that “Peacebuilding, in a context of human rights and social responsibility, is an integral part of all our educational encounters and activities”.
The second decision was to prepare an online Workshop in order to flesh out these ideals in a context that might be helpful to religious educators at all levels. It was agreed to find examples of effective practice from different parts of Europe and to offer these for consideration and discussion.
The Workshop took place on 1st April 2022, and participants joined from a range of countries including Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK (England and Northern Ireland). After a welcome and introduction by Lesley Prior, the EFTRE Chair, those taking part were given an opportunity to share their own experiences of dealing with issues around war and conflict.
A powerful reflection via images and words – Passport Photos for Sheltering Ukrainians – was presented by Hugo Verkest, from Belgium, followed by the sharing of a wide range of sources and resources collected by Bianca Kappelhoff and her colleagues in Germany. Lesley Prior made a brief presentation on Quaker Peace Education resources produced in England, and Norman Richardson, based on his experience in Northern Ireland, introduced a PowerPoint presentation entitled Difficult Conversations? – Approaching Controversial Issues in the Religious Education Classroom.
These presentations and links to the resources are now available via this website. We hope that they will be useful both at the present time and in the future. Please bring them to the attention of colleagues, pupils and students.
EFTRE would welcome any other experiences and teaching ideas that you would like to share on these important issues as we continue to encourage and support peacebuilding through Religious Education and related subjects.
Friday, 1st April 2022 at 4-5.30pm CET (3-4.30pm UK/IRE, 5-6.30pm FIN/GRE), on Zoom
The current challenges arising from Ukraine are affecting all of us living and working in education across Europe. As religious education teachers, you might be wondering how to take up the topic in a sensible way in your classroom, how to talk about peace as core idea of many world religions in this new setting or how to best react to fears and questions brought up by your students in this context.
With this workshop, EFTRE would like to offer a space for exchange, which will provide the opportunity to share experiences and expertise from our various contexts and backgrounds and learn from one another. The workshop will follow these guiding questions.
How is the current situation affecting you right now?
Where do you encounter these issues at school? Are pupils moved by it?
How can religions give (spiritual) shape to the longing for peace, especially in religious education classes?
How do we learn peace? Do you have tips for materials, methods, …?
The workshop will provide time for exchange in plenary but also in small group discussion. In addition, Norman Richardson, EFTRE executive member, will share his experience from the Northern Irish context and strategies on how to teach controversial issues.
In a spirit of mutual support, ideas, practical suggestions and resources shared by speakers and participants during the workshop will be made available via the EFTRE website later on.
You don’t need to register for this event, please simply follow this link to participate in the zoom meeting:
As an organisation involved in supporting inter-religious and intercultural understanding through education, the Executive Committee of EFTRE is very concerned about the challenges to peace and stability currently taking place in Ukraine. We are deeply committed to European co-operation and want to express our full solidarity with all those who stand up for peace and reconciliation across Europe and beyond.
Peacebuilding, in a context of human rights and social responsibility, is an integral part of all our educational encounters and activities. Current events demonstrate how close we are as people of Europe and as fellow human beings from a wide range of backgrounds, religions and cultures. We have a deep sense of connection in our commitment to education and to learning from and with each other across borders and differences.
We acknowledge that many educators in different countries will currently be facing the challenge of how to address these issues with their pupils and students. EFTRE bases its educational approach on the Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools1, and we offer the following extracts from this set of principles to highlight our concerns and commitments at this time, namely that:
“Students should learn about religions and beliefs in an environment respectful of human rights, fundamental freedoms and civic values;
Those who teach about religions and beliefs should have a commitment to religious freedom … ;
… teaching about religions and beliefs should give attention to key historical and contemporary developments … and reflect global and local issues”.
In a spirit of mutual support, we would welcome the sharing of any practical suggestions around ideas and resources for teaching about these issues through Religious Education classes in collaboration with other subjects. It is our intention to make these approaches available via our website.
We are conscious that some of our colleagues, members and fellow educators are particularly close to these difficult situations, and we know that some are especially anxious about the future. At this tense and difficult time, we want to assure them of our thoughts, our concern for their safety and our hopes for a justice in a spirit of peace.
As we approach the end of another challenging year, I am sure we are all looking forward to a better and brighter world in 2022! I am pleased to say that EFTRE is playing its part in this by launching its revised and improved website! It has a completely fresh look and also features our brand new logo! We really hope that not only will you like it, but that you will want to interact with it and contribute to it in the weeks and months to come.
On behalf of all members and friends of EFTRE, I want to thank the whole EFTRE Executive for contributing to the process which has made this possible. In particular, I want to pay tribute to our website manager Outi Raunio Hannula and our membership manager Bianca Kappelhoff who have both given their special expertise and many hours of their valuable time to this project – their careful attention to every detail is so much appreciated. I would also like to thank our website designer Veera Lupunen – it has been such a pleasure to work with her and she has been incredibly supportive and understanding during the whole process.
Many of you reading this will be preparing to celebrate Christmas very soon – this is traditionally a time of giving, so please accept the new website as EFTRE’s little gift to you!
We wish all our members and friends a restful and relaxing time during the holiday period and look forward to meeting you online and – we very much hope face to face – in 2022! Stay healthy, safe and well and keep in touch!
EFTRE very much regrets to announce that for obvious reasons relating to the pandemic, we have taken the decision to postpone our triennial Conference, due to be held in Rome at the end of August next year, 2022.
But this is simply a delay and NOT a cancellation! We are therefore rescheduling the Conference for the parallel dates in the following year so it will now take place from 24th to 27th August in 2023. After all, Rome is the Eternal City and will still be there to welcome us then! Our theme will be ‘Bridges Over Troubled Water: RE in Changing Times’.
The following EFTRE Conference is to be held in 2025 as originally planned. We are now in the process of looking for a host city for that so if you or your colleagues would be interested in working with us on it, please contact me by email – my address is . I would be delighted to hear from you!
In the meantime, the work of EFTRE continues. You can stay in touch with us via this website and all our other online platforms. We are also planning further virtual seminars at regular intervals and look out too for news of our next Executive and Board Meetings.
As an organisation, EFTRE is very much about encounter and the significant importance we place on engagement with one another – so we all look forward in the hope of being able to enjoy more opportunities for such experiences in the coming weeks and months!
ICCS together with its partner the IV hast just published the most recent issue of their common newsletter. In this rich edition you can learn more about a research project about Religious education and Covid-19, about an innovative Erasmus+ project about sustainability and spirituality and new approaches of a common Christian Religious Education in Germany.
You can find links to teacher training possibilities and publications about the future of Religious Education in Europe. Of course, you will also find information about the most recent and upcoming events of the two publishing organisations.
I realised recently that it is just over twenty years since I first became directly involved in the work of EFTRE!
In the late summer of 2001, I travelled to Scotland to take part in the EFTRE Conference being held that year in Edinburgh. I seem to remember that I had been strongly attracted to this event from the moment – several months before – when I had first received the initial publicity about it. On reflection, I think there were probably several reasons for this:
first, I felt that engaging with colleagues from across Europe would offer me invaluable opportunities to consider my own work in the context of new and fresh perspectives
second, the Conference focus on handling truth claims in RE was highly relevant to me, the programme itself offered an excellent range of lectures, seminars, workshops and other activities and the price of attendance – at least for me – seemed to offer real value for money
and finally, I have to admit that the prospect of spending time in one of my favourite cities with interesting people I had never met before was very appealing!
On all three counts, I am delighted to say that every one of my expectations was wholly fulfilled and what was true for me in that initial encounter with EFTRE remains true today. Through EFTRE, my work continues to be enriched and informed by collaboration and cooperation with colleagues in similar roles across Europe, EFTRE still has a strong commitment to hosting high quality conferences and other events and I have had so many wonderful times in wonderful cities with wonderful people, many of whom have become very dear friends as well as colleagues.
But much has also changed in the last two decades – just days after the EFTRE Conference in Edinburgh came to an end, the world was reeling after the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. Since then, we have endured many other such attacks and not least on European soil. RE, a subject which often claims to make a particular contribution to the cultivation of respect for others and the promotion of community cohesion has had to face the challenges imposed by all such attacks, whatever their motivations might be.
RE has also had to begin to grapple with other major concerns that have emerged more strongly since this century began – issues relating to climate change, to the marginalisation of certain ethnic and religious groups, to the role and status of women in society and to attitudes to sex, sexuality and gender. More recently of course, the pandemic has had a profound influence on the way many people think, act and feel and there have been – and will be – many more matters that challenge us in our professional and our personal lives.
As religious educators, we seek to provide the means to help our children and young people to navigate their way through this complex landscape and to engage with what is serious to them and to what is serious for others. At a time when increasing religious plurality and increasing secularism are to be seen in many of the countries from which we come, our task has perhaps become more complex than ever before.
EFTRE cannot claim to provide simple and easy solutions to the difficulties we face in these respects, but as our name suggests, we do provide a forum or meeting place where we can come together – virtually and in person – with those who are in a similar position to ourselves, although our contexts are never precisely the same. Our new website will be an invaluable tool for us to use in this respect, along with our other online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. We also plan to continue holding seminars several times a year on topics which should be of interest to all our members and friends. These will be via Zoom but we hope to conduct some of them in person when we can travel more easily and then they will coincide with Executive and Board Meetings in our various host cities and countries.
Finally, our forthcoming Conference will provide a more extended opportunity to identify, explore and evaluate some of the ways in which RE can create bridges over troubled waters, offering the spaces in which we hope every child and young person we support can receive the help they need to make sense of themselves and their place in their own country, in Europe and in the wider world. We very much hope you will want to part of that event and look forward to seeing you there!