The rapidly changing relationship between religion and state and the challenge of multiple identities were the foci of a lively dialogue between ten Chinese and nine European scholars and religious leaders representing Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and traditional Chinese religions held in Sweden, 3-6 October 2008.
The dynamics of registered religious institutions and the growth of house-churches in China, the recent separation of the church and state in Sweden, the way in which Chinese youth seek multiple religious identities, and the challenges of changing demographics in Europe were explored in open discussions and free exchanges of ideas and experience.
Case studies from a Chinese village and a Swedish suburb, as well as papers on religious publishing in China explored the role of the church in civil society.
Rev. Dr Shanta Premawardhana, director of the World Council of Churches (WCC) programme on Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation spoke to an affirmation from the WCC Assembly in Porto Alegre 2006 that the 20th century’s ”politics of ideology” was giving way in the current century to ”the politics of identity”.
"There is a growing trend towards expressing identities in mutually exclusive categories and the linking of religious and ethnic identities. Such hardening of identities is emerging as a serious challenge in the 21st century. Skills developed and sharpened through interreligious dialogue can help to effectively address these challenges," he said.
The workshop on "Religion and Society: the challenge of multiple identities" took place at the Sigtuna Foundation near Stockholm and was sponsored by the China-Europa Forum Foundation and by the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for Human Progress It was chaired by Dr Fredrik Fällman of Stockholm University and the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, which supported the event.
WCC programme on Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation: www.oikoumene.org/en/programmes/interreligiousdialogue.html
China-Europa Forum Foundation: www.china-europa-forum.net
Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for Human Progress: www.fph.ch