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Religion, where do you stand on democracy? Workshop discussion on a precarious constellation

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Moderated by Dr. Gesine Palmer (Catholic Academy in Berlin), the partners of the program "Cohesion through Conflict" discussed the relationship between religion and democracy in a virtual workshop on November 23, 2022. GIZ consultant Britta Petersen and theology professor Markus Vogt were invited as discussion partners.

Ms. Petersen underlined the relevance of the initial question with a number: more than 80% of the world's population have religious affiliations, and the democratic implications of religious beliefs are therefore crucial. This involves, for example, a rational way of life with regard to Covid vaccinations, responsibility for the Creation / environmental protection, or resistance to metaphysical justifications of a war of aggression. In this respect, the Russian Patriarch Cyril marked a "low point in Christian history”.

Prof. Vogt then urged liberal religious actors to enter into a "productive competition" with those who instrumentalize ambivalent belief systems for their violent purposes. Everyday practices, he said, were often better than theory. With their local presence and rootedness in civil society, churches perform important work of reconciliation and understanding. Critical theology, on the other hand, should aspire to keep "distance from power". Ultimately, Vogt summarized, the principle of democracy must be applied to religion itself. Religions have a rich treasure of recognizing the otherness of others and promoting a fruitful culture of conflict. After all, "it is only because of a You that the I can become an I."

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