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Many Modernities – Freedom of Religion in Different Settings

Our hypothesis is that this difference between Sweden and South Africa is also to be seen in relation to issues like freedom of religion and freedom of belief.


The recent analysis of World Values Survey data asserts two major dimensions of cross cultural variation in the world. The first dimension used is Traditional values versus Secular-rational values and the second dimension is Survival values versus Self-expression values. In a special global cultural map the scores of different countries are situated in relation to these dimensions.

Our hypothesis is that this difference between Sweden and South Africa is also to be seen in relation to issues like freedom of religion and freedom of belief. This is also reflected on a general level with a tendency to look upon human rights as individual rights (European context) and as individual and communal rights (African context). This is also connected with attitudes toward, for example, the right of minorities and gender rights.

Many people experience religion as a cornerstone in a democratic society, connected to freedom of expression and freedom of association. Other parts of civil society question this understanding and consider freedom of religion and belief as a threat to individual freedom, ostensibly or actually conflicting with other rights and freedoms. When issues of gender, health and sexual orientation are brought into the picture, questions of interpretation and authority to discern what freedom of religion and faith means become crucial.

We will invite about 14 scholars for a symposium April 4-5, 2017 to be held at STIAS, Stellenbosch. Afterwards the contributions will result in a book to be published either in Stellenbosch or in the U.S.

The following is where we are at the moment and the details below are open for discussion. In a first section we intend to discuss issues like

  • The International Concept on Freedom of Religion – Importance and Challenges of Today
  • The role of Religion in the Public Sphere – South Africa and Europe
  • Values – Religion, Democracy, and Human Rights (Freedom of Religion) in South Africa and Sweden

In the following sections we intend to discuss the situation in three different Modernities – Kenya, South Africa, and Europe (Sweden). To each of these we pose two basic questions:

  • Freedom of Religion or Belief with a short overview of the legislation but also challenges of today like individual contra collective, gender, sexual orientation, different other human rights etc.
  • Case studies based on Freedom of Religion or Belief

In a third section we will deal with different religious settings and the attitude and relation to Freedom of Religion.

  • Islam
  • Christianity in Europe and South Africa
  • Traditional African Religion

more about many modernities

For more information about the project, contact:
Göran Gunner

Elisabeth Gerle