|Muslims are regularly harassed in 121 countries / Photo by Viacheslav Iakobchuk via 123RF|
Every day, millions of people with different religious backgrounds face discrimination or the unequal treatment of an individual or groups based on their beliefs. It is unfortunate that we live in a society where we grew up to treat others differently just because they are not the same with us. A number of people face discrimination because of their beliefs, suffering from injustice, violence, and even death.
Religious discrimination is still prevalent in modern times. In fact, an article by Brandon Gaille reported that the incidents involving religious discrimination in the United States have doubled since 1997. The most discriminated religious group are Christians. A study conducted from 2006 to 2010 found that they have experienced harassment from the government and society in 168 countries around the world.
The second most discriminated group in the world are Muslims, as they are regularly harassed in 121 countries. Additionally, about 33% of nations in the world actively harass women because of their religious attire.
What's even worse is that there are hate crimes and violence caused by religious discrimination. It has been reported that the number of anti-Muslim crimes in the United States has risen by 17 times since 2001.
Thus, children are growing to see worsening religious discrimination in our society. This will not come to an end until proper education has been done. Thus, it's important for kids to better understand and be educated about the world's religions in order to make our world a better place to live in.
Religious Education is Key
The best way to fight any kind of ignorance is through education. In order for people with different religious backgrounds to get along, they must be educated in the beliefs of one another. A study titled "Young People's Attitudes to Religious Diversity" conducted by the researchers from the Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit (WRERU) at the University of Warwick found out that religious education is a key to community cohesion. According to an article by Phys.org, the study involving 12,000 students aged 13 to 15 who are attending schools across the United Kingdom including England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. It aimed to address two questions. First, to know the attitudes of young people in the country toward religious diversity. Second, to determine the main influences that shaped those attitudes.
The findings showed that there's a reasonable level of understanding about religious diversity among young people. They also have an open and positive acceptance of diversity in the beliefs. Aside from that, they also attribute this positive outcome to religious education. In an interview, Professor Leslie Francis of the WRERU at the University of Warwick said, "Since the time of the 1944 Education Act, the government's investment in religious education in schools has been key to creating an informed and open society that has welcomed and nurtured a climate conducive not only to a multi-cultural but also to a multi-faith society.
|Educating children about religion can help in getting rid of religious prejudice / Photo by Mark Bowden via 123RF|
Additionally, our society will be more likely to be ignorant about religious diversity without a continued investment in religious education. About 70% of the participants who have no religion stated that "studying religion at school helps me to understand people from other religions."
Teaching Kids About Diverse Religions
The young people in society right now hold what our future will be. Thus, it is important that they are being taught the right views, which include religious diversity. A study about Generation Z showed that 80% of secondary school students who had classes about diverse religions have positive views of Muslims. It also shows that young people who are more tolerant of religious minorities have been exposed to education about diverse religions and worldviews.
According to another article by Phys.org, teaching general religious education is different from religious instruction. The latter only focuses on the faith formation that's practiced in the religion while teaching diverse worldviews and religions includes learning about major faith traditions and other worldviews. Educating children in issues like these can help in getting rid of religious prejudice that's very much present in our society.
The study, which ran between 2016 and 2018, aimed to evaluate how teens view the world and religious issues. The researchers gathered data about their views in spiritual, religious, non-religious, cultural, and sexual diversity in the 21st century. The study showed very promising results as they found out that Gen Z teens are open and accepting of religious diversity. In fact, they agreed that having different beliefs in a certain country makes it a better place to live in.
However, the researchers also found that Gen Z teens have mixed views when it comes to religious minorities. About 74% had positive views toward Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism; 21% had moderate to neutral views, and 5% had negative views. Nonetheless, the study showed that teaching kids about religious diversity will eventually change the mindsets with regard to different faiths and beliefs.