EU High Representative Federica Mogherini launched a “Global Exchange on religion in society.” The project is planned to be operational in the first half of 2020 with funds from the EU budget. The initiative aims to create opportunities to connect people, organizations and community actors in the field of social inclusion
European institutions have decided to support civil society actors committed to improve social cohesion through the contribution of faith. In September, during a Conference in Brussels attended by 150 representatives of civil society, governments and religious institutions, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini announced the creation of a “Global Exchange on Religion in Society”, a “kind of Erasmus for civil society actors and activists who are working on faith and social inclusion.”
The premise is that religion plays a major role in almost every society in the world.
A survey by the Pew Research Centre shows that approximately 84% of the world population identifies with a faith tradition. The second finding is that religion is involved, for the good or the bad, in the definition of the current major issues and controversies: from peace to terrorism, from integration to the protection of creation, from justice to freedom.
Churches and faith communities have long sought to highlight the significant social impact of their commitment.
After years of trying to marginalise and silence them on the grounds of a misunderstood form of “secularism”, many signs now point to a trend reversal, clearly exemplified by the Brussels project. It should also be noted that Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, provides for an “open, transparent and regular” dialogue between the EU institutions and the churches in Europe.
The Global Exchange, which the High Representative has strongly supported, aims to encourage the “silent majority” around the world that “are working on a daily basis to improve things” .
The project – expected to be operational in the first half of 2020 – makes available funds from the EU budget for the creation of spaces and opportunities to connect, promote exchange of experiences and empower civil society actors who are working on faith and social inclusion. The project envisages that the future exchange will bring together people who will take part in workshops to improve certain skills including visibility and communication techniques.
A pilot phase of the Project was carried out in the last months of 2018, which lasted until the beginning of 2019.
It served to test out the feasibility of the project with meetings in Lebanon and the United Kingdom coordinated by a British NGO, the Lokani Foundation. The pilot phase was centred on Christian-Muslim dialogue, addressing the question of Islamic identity in Europe with reflections on the common traits of the different experiences.
The deadline for individuals, institutions and organizations who wished to share their interest and be chosen as “partners” of the EU, closed at the end of September.
The exchanges are expected to take place in the coming months. “We want to acknowledge the positive role that religion is already playing in some parts of the world, of our societies. We want to recognise the solutions that are coming from the grassroots, and from the core of our communities”, the High Representative declared in her speech. The EU focuses “on the peace-builders, on the change-makers, on the bridge-builders.” “Let us try to focus on the positive that is already there, because sometimes this is also a way to prevent or to cope with the negative trends we see emerging or consolidating in society across the world.”