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Religious Education and Freedom of Religion and Belief

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Edited By Stephen Parker, Rob Freathy and Leslie J. Francis

What opportunities and challenges are presented to religious education across the globe by the basic human right of freedom of religion and belief? To what extent does religious education facilitate or inhibit ‘freedom of religion’ in schools? What contribution can religious education make to freedom in the modern world? This volume provides answers to these and related questions by drawing together a selection of the papers delivered at the seventeenth session of the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values held in Ottawa in 2010. These reflections from international scholars, drawing upon historical, theoretical and empirical perspectives, provide insights into the development of religious education in a range of national contexts, from Europe to Canada and South Africa, as well as illuminating possible future directions for the subject.

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PART III Empirical Perspectives

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René Ferguson 11 Communities of Practice: Encountering the Unexpected in Narratives of Religious Diversity Abstract The contents of this chapter form part of a wider study in which I investi- gated how participation by teachers in a learning community, a community of practice, would contribute toward improving their professional knowl- edge base for Religion Education as a focus area of Citizenship Education. The chapter tells a story of how qualitative research may produce the unex- pected. Forty-five kilometres west of Johannesburg, South Africa, a small mining town lies tucked away. The Group Areas Act in which people of dif ferent ‘races’ were forced to live separately during the apartheid era is still in evidence, seventeen years after liberation. Four people, a researcher and three secondary school teachers who live, or lived, in these former segregated areas, encountered one another in this out-of-the-way town, in a participatory action research project designed to investigate options for teacher-learning about religion, religious diversity and democratic citizenship education. What was the nature of the unexpected? Various narratives arose out of dialogue with these teachers and subsequent ref lec- tions on their personal histories and experiences of religion and belief, and how these contribute toward understanding regional dif ferences in religious expression, tradition and belief, experiences which are largely undocumented. The narratives presented within this chapter explore how situated knowledge unearthed by participants through engagement in a community of practice provide examples of experiences and interpreta- tions of religion and religious diversity which are valuable resources...

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