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New report reveals teaching religion in our schools reduces extremism

​New report reveals teaching religion in our schools reduces extremism

Religious Education in schools can strengthen multi-culturalism and reduce extremism in our wider communities, according to a new report.

The report found schools offering Special Religious Education (SRE), Religious Instruction (RI) and General Religious Education (GRE) were ideal settings "for children to develop an understanding of peace and tolerance.” The goal of teaching students how to live harmoniously with others in a contemporary and diverse society is a pillar of modern education, said the report. "Multicultural education is a key instrument in achieving social cohesion.” 

The report was written by world-renowned academics Professor Zehavit Gross (the UNESCO/Burg Chair in Education in Human Values, Tolerance and Peace at Bar-Ilan University, Israel) and Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland, of the University of Sydney. 
The report highlighted the recent mass shootings in New Zealand, suicide bombings in Sri Lanka and the San Diego synagogue shooting as potential topics of discussion among students. For example, religious education teachers could discuss the fear and concern which affected Muslim, Christian and Jewish students in Australia, the report found. Removing in-faith education from government schools detracts from the government's multicultural aims by denying students a crucial avenue to explore their own religious identity and heritage. The report found SRE and GRE played a key role in dismantling stereotypes and strengthening social cohesion. Professor Gross said the belief that religion is irrelevant in a postmodern world is a myth. "Religion continues to play a major role in our public life and acknowledges the legitimate spiritual needs of each individual." Professor Rutland said religious belief and spirituality provide students with an anchor for their individual identities and contribute meaning to their lives. A strong grounding in one's individual identity, combined with knowledge of other religions, helps to combat extremism by teaching respect for diversity. Christian SRE CEO Murray Norman said it was vital students were provided with a safe place to explore their religious identities.

August 22, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk

2018 Census statistics on Religious Diversity

2018 Census statistics on Religious Diversity

As many of you know, the 2018 New Zealand Census statistics were released earlier this week on Monday 23 September. The released figures however, are always just raw numbers of census respondents. In order to make some sense of these figures I have compiled and published the attached chart, which should make it easier for those of us interested in the religious demography of New Zealand to make sense of the raw data. This includes portraying some of the intercensal growth in the various categories.

I hope that you will find this information useful.

Please remember that it is a first draft and I would warmly welcome comments and suggestions for improvement. I am also preparing a written article to accompany the Table, which will include additional analysis and summarise long term trends. For the moment, in the interest of getting these figures circulated I am just providing the basic information. 

There are interesting trends to note, such as the phenomenal increase in our Jain and Sikh populations, along with a tremendous increase in those responding with 'No Religion’ and ‘Object to Answering’. Both Hinduism and Islam also continue on strong growth trajectories. 

The decline in those adhering to the numerous Christian denominations has slowed down a bit in the recent Intercensal period (although adherence to Christianity now only makes up for 37% of those stating a religious affiliation, compared with 48% in the 2018 Census stats). Since the 2013 Census, New Zealand is no longer a Christian-majority country, although it maintains its status as the religion with the most adherents in New Zealand. Secularity is still in the majority (48.2%). Buddhism has also has lost more than 9% of its 2013 population. 

Most surprising however, is the significant decrease of those stating adherence to Judaism, which has lost 23% of its population over the course of the most recent intercensal period (after remaining flat for the previous intercensal period). This may be due to increasing antisemitism and a Jewish population that may be increasingly unlikely to identify as such. This decline is indeed newsworthy and I’ll be working on a statement in the coming days. 

Much more work and analysis needs to be done on these statistics and figures, so I’ll keep you posted as the research progresses. 

If you are distributing this PDF, please make sure to include both the chart on Page 1 and the Notes on page 2, i.e. please do not simply print out the first page and ignore the accompanying notes. If distributing printed versions, please make sure to include Page 2 as the back side of a double sided page. 

This PDF is available for download on our website at <>.

Todd Nachowitz, PhD
Director, EarthDiverse
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Secretary, Waikato Interfaith Council (WIFCO) / Te Tīaho Uenuku
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