Decline in religious studies problematic for creating social cohesion

religious diversity

The study of religion has rapidly fallen into decline in New Zealand universities says Massey University’s Dr Wil Hoverd.

“This follows a general trend occurring across the country, where religious diversity has been collapsed into broader discussions of biculturalism, ethnic diversity and superdiversity.”

He says the result has been that “we lack the expertise to talk to the New Zealand state and citizenry about the contemporary challenges occurring around religious diversity”.

Hoverd thinks the lack of emphasis on religion will create problems for understanding social cohesion and healing after Christchurch.

He says Prime Minister Jacinda Arden argued that the very reason our nation was targeted for a terrorist event was because of its diversity.

She noted that New Zealand has “200 ethnicities, 160 languages, and amongst that diversity we share common values”.

But “Her language focused solely on ethnic diversity and did not mention religion or religious diversity”.

Hoverd posed the question: “After the decline of the study of religion in New Zealand, how will we develop a sensitive and informed discussion and language of religious diversity where increased state management and community cohesion can function together to renew our nation as a safe and harmonious place that accepts all people, no matter what they believe?”

Personal Contact breaks down fears

Another  Massey academic, Professor Stephen Croucher, says his research in India, France, Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States has shown that many dominant group members, often white Christians in those countries, express fear of immigrants in their nations.

“The more contact we have with each other and learn about one another, the less likely we are to fear one another,” he says.

Dr Wil Hoverd is a senior lecturer at the Massey University Centre for Defence and Security Studies. A sociologist of religion by training, he is an expert in religious diversity and New Zealand national security.

Professor Stephen Croucher is the head of Massey University’s School of Communication, Marketing and Journalism.

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News category: New Zealand.

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