Mission and educationY
He research area “Mission and Education” focuses on the presence of the church in education and how to understand and justify this presence.
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Throughout most of the history of Christian mission worldwide, the place and role of education have been expressions of the church’s missionary mandate to proclaim the gospel in the past, present, and future. The goal of missionaries was evangelization, and schools were increasingly recognized as both the preferred medium and strategy for achieving that goal.
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The well-known words of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) show an important connection between the missionary mandate of the church and its educational task. Therefore, the research field „Mission and Education“ focuses on this reciprocal relationship: Which concept of education can we, for example, find in the church documents of the past and present? What´s the main reason for the educational work of the global church – still an attempt to spread the Christian faith or the commitment for an universal human right? This are just some of the key questions for a new approach regarding the meaning of education in the radically changed context of mission today.
As the context and also the paradigm of mission itself have changed, especially in the 21st century, the relationship between Christian mission and education has been questioned and needs further reflection. Given the globalized world and increasingly secularized and pluralized societies, but also in the context of the theological and pastoral renewal of the Catholic Church in the 20th century, mission cannot take place only for the purpose of “spreading the faith” in a promotional way. Rather, it must focus on contributing to the development of man as a whole, a development that certainly includes his faith:
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:1).
From this perspective, the Church is called to contribute to the development of human life, for which education plays a crucial role, in all its dimensions. Consequently, the presence of the Catholic Church in the educational system has contributed to world civilization from the cradle and remains today one of the largest non-governmental educational institutions in the world, recognizing education as a fundamental human right. All human beings, whatever their origin, status and age, have, by virtue of their human dignity, the inalienable right to an education (5) which takes into account their goal in life (6), their disposition and the difference between the sexes, is adapted to the native cultural tradition and at the same time is open to fraternal partnership with other peoples in order to serve true unity and peace on earth. True education aims at the formation of the human person with a view to his ultimate goal, but also to the good of the communities of which he is a member and in whose tasks he is to share as an adult (JD, 1).
One of the tasks of Catholic education is to work out the ways and means of achieving these goals in the midst of different conceptions of what it means to be human, the ultimate goal of human existence, and what constitutes the good of societies. In continuity with its tradition, the Church understands the human person as a “religious being,” namely, that the human person is constitutively open to transcendence and explicitly or not seeks an encounter with it. Therefore, every human being has the right to develop his or her religious dimension, the same freedom to practice religion (even publicly), and the right to religious education. Likewise, societies and states should not only respect them, but also ensure the “social conditions” to guarantee the spiritual and material fulfillment of their inhabitants, education being one of the most important. Nevertheless, it is not so easy to agree on the necessity and value of religious education in (especially public) schools and, moreover, on the specific goals and content that such a subject should have. Due to the plurality of worldviews present in our modern societies today and their valence, there are always questions and discussions on this topic.
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Recent research shows that in Europe, for example, three main models of religious education can be identified: No religious education in schools (basically represented by France, which has no specific subject for religious education; instead, the study of religious affairs is introduced with other school subjects); denominational religious education, partly organized and controlled by religious communities, partly following a cooperative model between the state and religious communities; and finally, non-denominational religious education, organized and controlled by the state through the establishment of secular and multidisciplinary approaches to religious faith, which seems to be an educational and civic necessity in pluralistic and secular societies, as in Europe (Jackson, 2007; Ziebertz, 2008; Valk, 2009; Rothgangel, Jäggle & Schlag, 2016). One of the main conclusions of the comparative research already conducted in Europe is that countries differ in their understanding and development of religious education because of their cultural differences, but especially because of their different histories in the relationship between state/school and church and therefore in their understanding and development of religious education.
In Latin America, on the other hand, the topic itself is still underdeveloped and there has been no international comparative research to date. Rodrigo Martínez (Argentina) and Patricia Imbarack and Cristóbal Madero (Chile) have recently begun mapping the field of religious education in public (Martínez, 2021) and Catholic schools (Imbarack & Madero, 2019), respectively. In his study, Martínez has already summarized which countries do not offer religious education in public schools (Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venzuela) and which models exist in the others. However, there is a need for a deeper and more complex understanding of the different models of religious education, which are strongly linked to the different socio-cultural, religious, legal and pedagogical contexts. In addition, it is also still lacking to carry out a renewed reflection on the value and role of religious education in Latin American schools. In order to contribute to fill (at least partially) this gap, a new research project on religious education in (some) Latin American countries is being developed by IWM. The research will focus on the following aspects in the selected countries: a) socio-religious background of the country; b) legal framework for religious education and the relationship between religious communities and the state; c) development in the educational policy of the country; d) concepts and tasks of religious education.