Demographic projections indicate that cultural and religious diversity will increase dramatically in the coming decades in many parts of the world. What are the contributions that law and religion studies can give in response to the challenges posed by increasing religious and cultural diversity? What are the political, legal and sociological strategies “from law and religion” that can enable citizens to live together with religious and cultural difference?
Granting freedom of religion or belief to everyone is obvious. But what theological and philosophical conceptions and what political and legal practices of freedom of religion or belief are most helpful in addressing cultural and religious diversification. Historically, differing conceptions and practices have been dominant in various regions of the world. Today freedom of religion or belief is granted in many different ways on a continuum between the two extremities of promoting equality or encouraging diversity. In Western countries, freedom of religion or belief has been primarily granted through equality, discarding the regimes of religiously-based personal laws that were in force until the 18th century and replacing them with a uniform State legal system.
In other parts of the world – India or South Africa for example – freedom of religion or belief is promoted through diversity, maintaining systems of personal laws that give citizens different civil (and sometimes even political) rights based on religious confession. Both systems have their weak and strong points and cannot be understood without taking into consideration the history, culture, and social conditions of different parts of the world. What is the impact of increasing religious and cultural diversification on different iterations of freedom of religion or belief and what are the best strategies to make freedom of religion or belief an effective tool for living together in diversity are the questions which lie at the core of this conference.