|Editor||P. Cunningham & N. Fretwell, Lifelong Learning and Active Citizenship|
In Europe, the social dimensions of diversity have been for long understood more as problems and challenges to be resolved than as traits to be protected or encouraged. At least in the concrete case of religious diversity, this is so because the opposite (religious uniformity) has played a key role as a regulative idea organizing social life and communal identity of the nation-state and has played an important role in the shaping of a European citizenship. But although Europe's history explains (in part) our traditional rejection of religion, there are very important reasons to take it into account. Yet, given the ambivalent nature of religion (of the “sacred”), in order to foster the positive contribution that religious diversity can make (and minimize the conflicts it often produces) to social cohesion, it is necessary to adapt and innovate religiously. Two related initiatives are good examples of how this can be done: the promotion of interreligious dialogue as a means for citizen’s participation, social cohesion and conflict transformation in urban areas, and the development and dissemination of educational material on religious diversity as a preparation to active citizenship. Both experiences have shown that by way of dialogue and collaboration, including in it those so-called “non-believers” (atheists, agnostics, skeptics or unconcerned), the positive potential of religious communities for peaceful coexistence initiatives can be released, breaking the cycle of radicalization and building social cohesion in close proximity areas, and helping shape, in real life, the conception of an inclusive European citizenship.