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Governing Religion: Global Challenges and Comparative Approaches

Explore the relationship between religions and governments and learn how religions have come to be governed across the world.

2,632 enrolled on this course

Governing Religion: Global Challenges and Comparative Approaches

Explore ways of governing religion and religious diversity today

On this course you will consider different models of state-religion relations, reviewing examples from both European and non-European countries.

You will learn how different models have emerged out of historical processes of nation formation (including post-colonial independence, redrawing of state boundaries after a major political transition or through an evolutionary process of institutional and value change).

You will also consider your own experiences, and debate ideal models for governing religion and religious diversity in today’s world.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds Religious diversity appears to be one of the toughest challenges that European societies face today. Countries around the world deal with it in different ways, aiming at and achieving diverse levels of integration. Thus, many questions arise when analysing the different approaches. For example, what drives the relationship between the state and religious institutions around the world? How are the historic privileges of the majority religion in a country, if any, adjusted to meet the requests of other religions and beliefs? For example, concerning dress codes, places of worship, public holidays, and dietary requirements. Which actors are best placed to make decisions on the many issues that arise in accommodating such diverse needs? And what can societies learn from each other?

Skip to 1 minute and 8 seconds Interested in learning more on this issue? Then join our course. Take the opportunity to learn about secularism, pluralism, state neutrality, and religious tolerance. Make the most of our international experts and of the many interesting case studies. Analyse policies and practises in place and form your own opinion on how religious diversity should be governed in our increasingly globalised world. Sign up now.


  • Week 1

    European Approaches to Governing Religion

    • Introduction to the course on Governing Religion

      Welcome to the course, identify the main issues and challenges related to religious diversity, read and listen about examples from concrete case-studies.

    • An Overview of Religious Diversity in Europe

      We look at the main trends and challenges of religious diversity in Europe, and the origins of State-Church Relations in countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Bulgaria and the Baltic states.

    • Wrapping Up Week 1

      Reflecting on what we have learnt so far and testing knowledge.

  • Week 2

    Asian and Middle Eastern Approaches to Governing Religion

    • Introduction to the second week

      Broadening the study of religious governance from Europe to the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA region), and to South and Southeast Asia.

    • Experiences in religious governance from the Middle East and North Africa

      Experiences in religious governance from the Middle East and North Africa

    • Learning from Asian approaches

      Describing approaches to state-religious institutions in South and Southeast Asia

    • Concluding the week and taking stock of what we have learnt

      Wrapping up Week 2 with comparisons between and within regions.

  • Week 3

    Best Practices in Comparative Perspective

    • What can different world regions learn from one another?

      This activity briefly summarizes the previous weeks, and links the big questions around governing religious diversity with the opportunity to learn from positive experiences and different world regions.

    • Analyzing good practices in Europe

      In this week we review some interesting examples from the United Kingdom, Spain and Bulgaria and the ways in which they seek to integrate religious minorities in the countries' institutional and legal frameworks.

    • Analyzing good practices in the MENA region

      In the coming steps we will turn towards the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to learn from the experiences of Morocco, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

    • Analyzing good practices in South and Southeast Asia

      In the coming steps we turn to south and southeast Asia and the ways in which countries like India, Indonesia and Malaysia manage religious diversity.

    • Offering a comparative approach

      In the following steps we bring together and examine the cases studied so far. Through expert videos and a peer review assignment we review, we would like you to reflect upon and to evaluate the core teachings of this course.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Investigate current debates on state-religion relations
  • Reflect on different countries and different regimes for governing religious diversity
  • Discuss critically the notion of secularism and the idea of a neutral state that governs religion by ‘tolerating’ its presence or indeed by excluding it from the public space
  • Assess models in which religion is given a prominent role in the public space and religious diversity is accommodated precisely because religion is seen as an important matter
  • Compare the experiences of different countries and identify the ingredients of a religious governance regime that accommodates both believers and non believers and makes room for religious diversity

Who is the course for?

This course is for undergraduate and graduates studying sociology, political science or anthropology. It might also be useful for civil society activists, journalists and anyone with an interest in religious diversity and the relationship between government and religion.

This course is part of the research project GREASE: Radicalisation Secularism and the Governance of Religious Diversity: Bringing together European and Asian Perspectives funded by the European Commission, Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 770640. The content of this MOOC represents only the views of the GREASE consortium and is its sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.

Who will you learn with?

Anna Triandafyllidou is Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Tina is a Research Associate at the Global Governance Programme, Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute working primarily on religious diversity governance.

Who developed the course?

European University Institute (EUI)

The European University Institute offers doctoral and post-doctoral training in the social sciences. It hosts the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the Historical Archives of the EU.

GREASE Project Consortium

GREASE: Radicalisation, Secularism and the Governance of Religion: Bringing together European and Asian Perspectives, is an international research project funded by the Horizon 2020 programme.

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