The religious was released into his invisibility

Solange Lefebvre, a professor at the Institute of Religious Studies at the Université de Montréal, has just been awarded three grants in a row, for a total of $ 830,000. “This is a significant totality in the human sciences,” underlined the holder of the Chair on the Management of Cultural and Religious Diversity.

Founded in the early 2000s, this pioneering philanthropic chair has served as a springboard for securing a large number of grants in a highly competitive world, Ms.ako Lefebvre: “The Chairman was always at the forefront of issues. At that time, very little was said about religion in public places.

Three grants, two themes

Over the years, the researcher has become interested in topics of growing importance in our society and elsewhere. Upon completion of two major projects on radicalization and spiritual needs in the prison environment, Solange Lefebvre submitted three applications for grant: two to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) (Knowledge Program and program in Partnership Development) and one on the Transatlantic Platform (a group of 18 providing agencies from the Americas and Europe, including the SSHRC and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture). “I got it at once!” he exclaimed.

The funds will allow him to focus on two themes: the pandemic and religion as well as municipal management of religious diversity.

Pandemics and religion

Thanks to money raised from the Transatlantic Platform, the researcher and his collaborators will explore over the next three years the religious issues raised by the pandemic in four countries: Canada, Ireland, Poland and Germany. The researcher and three other colleagues in Europe wanted to examine the change in the role of religion caused by COVID-19. “In many countries, communication between religions is poorly organized. During the pandemic, many religions came together to become one vis-à-vis the government; the majority religions have also helped those in the minority ”, gives as an example Mr.ako Lefebvre.

In Quebec, the provincial government, which over the past few years has reaffirmed its neutrality and secularism, has no choice but to establish switching channels with religious organizations and representatives during the pandemic to promote their cooperation with application of health measures only to convey its messages to their communities. “We are at level zero of communication. But when there are situations where you need to talk to religious representatives, what do you do?” comment by Mako Lefebvre. The researcher wanted to study the relationship of government and religions in this context and the role of the latter in supporting their followers in this difficult time.

He will also examine how discourse about health, disease and science developed as well as the digital changes in the field of religion brought about by the pandemic. To do this, two online surveys of worshipers and religious and community leaders will be conducted in four countries, as well as 320 in -depth interviews (80 in each country). Documentary analysis (press articles, documents produced by religious organizations, etc.) will also be conducted. The researcher is also responsible for setting up a symposium that will mark the end of the international project, in 2025, and which will focus on religious culture in the public sphere.

Religion and municipality

The other two SSHRC grants will be allocated to the study of the management of places of worship up to the expression of religion in public places. “For 20 years, research on religious diversity has made great progress in Quebec, but at the municipal level, it is diverse and has some limitations,” Solange Lefebvre explains. In collaboration with several other researchers and partners, he therefore wants to address this need for in -depth research. “We take care of the schools, reasonable accommodation, but the municipalities maintain day-to-day relations with religious groups,” he added.

Many challenges and problems have arisen in relation to municipal governance and religious diversity in Quebec. We have noticed, for example, increasing requests for permits to establish places of worship in Montreal as we think about what to do with old churches that are closing their doors. But cities and religious organizations and leaders seem to speak different languages. “Officials often don’t know where to stand in relation to state neutrality. What does this concept mean? What access can they allow, especially to public spaces? Should religious groups be treated as community groups? ” he watches.

This project, which is eagerly awaited by some municipal governing bodies, aims to shed light on four main interrelated issues: 1) the changing religious landscape and the evolution of State secularism, as well as its influence on cities; 2) the relevance of individuals to religion and the visibility into their environment; 3) the daily practices of religiously related municipalities; 4) the participation of religious groups in urban life. “Basically, we need to remove them from invisibility. These groups are there, for good or for worse, and sometimes we act as if they don’t exist, ”summarizes Mako Lefebvre. A dozen case studies in several cities and more than 200 in -depth interviews will be conducted over the next few years.

Because these issues will occupy a prominent place in the coming years, despite the Quebec state’s desire to stay away from religion. And while religious culture courses seem to be in danger of disappearing from school, misunderstandings between groups are likely to rise. “More and more, civil servants, journalists, in other words, people talking to religious groups will have fewer references. It will be a challenge ”, concluded the researcher.

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