Religious diversity Poland

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The objective of the survey was to find out how Polish learners of a lower-secondary school perceive religious diversity in the school context as well as in a much broader European dimension and what factors they may take into consideration concerning the issue. The analysis is based on the results of the questionnaire Religious Diversity in Europe conducted among lower-secondary students learning English as a foreign language. The questionnaire was created as a joint work of schools cooperating within the Comenius School Partnership, ‘Communication Connects Cultures through Comenius’.

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Religious diversity Poland

  1. 1. Religious Diversity in Europe - Questionnaire The purpose of the survey was to find out how Polish learners perceivereligious diversity and draw conclusions based on the collected data. The aim wasoperationalized through the development of a questionnaire. The questionnaire Religious Diversity in Europe was created in order toacquire answers to the questions posed. The survey was conducted using 13-16year-olds who have studied English for at least one year prior to their arrival at thelower-secondary school. The school is situated in Cracow which is the capital of theMałopolskie Province. Therefore, the results of the questionnaire do not represent asbroad a student group of the lower-secondary school, but the chosen group properlymirrors the target population in gender and level distribution.1. A characteristic of the survey population concerning age categories andgender distribution based on the collected data It would have been ideal if the results of the survey had represented opinionacross gender and all age groups in lower-secondary schools in Poland, as well ascovering geographical areas and students social backgrounds. In the case of thesurvey, however, it was necessary to impose some limitations for several practicalreasons. First of all, I had to exclude certain parts of the whole population of 13-16-year-olds because they were inaccessible to me owing to the geographical distanceand difficulty in gaining access to them. Secondly, the time required to conduct thesurvey would have been much longer if I had decided to collect data from allrespondents. Data analysis from all students of lower-secondary schools in Polandwould have required some additional information concerning their access to the Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  2. 2. Internet and other media, their level of English, organizational differences betweenschools and the society where the school is situated as well as other sociologicalfactors. It would have been difficult to collect such information and a more practicalapproach requires the use of sampling techniques. To overcome the problems mentioned above, a group of subjects wasselected for the study about which I could draw conclusions. It consisted of somestudents of the lower-secondary school in Cracow. The learners come to the schoolfrom different areas surrounding Cracow and from the city itself. Thus, they comefrom a variety of social backgrounds and are of mixed linguistic levels. They wereboth relevant and available to the questions I was studying. A description of the participants of my survey conducted in 2011 follows inTable 1.1. and Table 1.2.Table 1.1. Age categories of the participantsLevel category Frequency Valid percent Cumulative percent13-year-olds 7 23.33% 23.33%14-year-olds 13 43.34% 66.67%15-year-olds 10 33.33% 100Total 30 100Table 1.2 Gender distribution of all the participantsGender Frequency Valid percent Cumulative percentMale 12 40% 40%Female 18 60% 100Total 30 100 Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  3. 3. As stated, the results do not represent as broad a student group of a lower-secondary school as would have been ideal. However, the chosen group properlymirrors the target population in gender and age distribution. On the other hand, thecollected data are large enough to give an interesting insight into how studentsperceive religious diversity and in the way in which they gain the information aboutthe issue. Considering all the requirements, a self-administered questionnaire waschosen as less time consuming and less expensive to administer than othermethods. The type of questionnaire is usually given to respondents in written formand may be completed without the presence of the researcher. Secondly, studentsare familiar with the method of data collecting. Most of them have had some previousexperience in completing different questionnaires for educational purposes. In the introduction of the questionnaire the relevant information about thesurvey being conducted was outlined. Students were requested to complete thequestionnaire. They were assured that there were no correct or incorrect answersand all their responses should reflect an honest personal opinion.2. Sources of information All of the factors mentioned above have a significant impact on the waystudents acquire knowledge about different religions. Table 2.7 shows what the mainsources of information are regarding the subject of the survey. It was an open-ended question which allowed the respondents to tick no morethan three choices but without ranking. Few students ticked only one answer, somechose two but a large majority of respondents gave three answers. For this reason asummarization of the total results of all level categories gives less than 90 responses.Given that all respondents tick 3 answers the total number would be 90 responses. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  4. 4. Table 2.1. Comparison of the different sources of information about different religionswhich students enumerate as answers to the third question Question III Responses according to age category 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-olds Totalfrom parents 5 9 5 19from teachers 3 7 4 14from TV and films 3 6 7 16from books and magazines 2 4 6 12from friends 1 2 0 3the Internet 3 9 8 20other sources 0 0 0 0Total 17 37 30 84 The results show that the Internet is the most frequently indicated as thesource of information for respondents. Their parents are about as good a source ofinformation for teenagers as the Internet. TV and films take the third place. Teachersalong with books and magazines are a bit less popular sources of information, only 3persons indicated friends and no one pointed out to other sources of information. The Chart 2.1 indicates that the results do not follow a similar pattern acrossall age categories. As for the older ones, they look for other sources of information ondifferent religions and do not rely only on the knowledge acquired from their parents.They seem more open to information coming from the media, especially the Internethas the greatest influential impact on the youth. This is in accordance with thegeneral model of growing up. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  5. 5. Chart 2.1. Comparison of the different sources of information about different religionsthat students enumerate as answers to question four 9 8 7 from parents 6 from teachers 5 from TV and films from books and magazines 4 from friends 3 the Internet 2 other sources 1 0 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-oldsFigure 2.1. Comparison of the overall results as a percentage of the total pool ofanswers to the question three 23% 4% from parents 0% from teachers 14% from TV and films from books and magazines 23% from friends the Internet 19% other sources 17% Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  6. 6. In general, adolescents acquire information from friends less willingly thanfrom the Internet and parents. Other media are as popular among them as theknowledge acquired from teachers. The research would be incomplete withoutconsidering a broader context of the examined phenomenon. There are severalquestions related to the problem which must be raised. To what extend do parentsinfluence their children’s world view, especially that of religion? How have theirreligious beliefs influenced the beliefs of their children? There is no clear pattern,obviously not all Christians were raised in Christian homes. Although, it is common toadopt the beliefs of people significant in our lives. Much depends on the kind ofupbringing, strict or more relaxed, which respondents have experienced. Someteenagers are mature enough to question and, sometimes, they are given thesupport and encouraged to search on their own, to be more open minded and to lookat things differently. It seems that beliefs and religion are still so delicate and uneasyproblems that they are discussed within families or dealt on their own rather than withfriends.3. General statements The importance of personal beliefs leads to the next questions. Another formatwas used here - it was the Likert scale. Respondents were asked to rate a statementon a scale showing to what extent they agree with the statement. The use of an oddnumber of points on the scale allowed the respondent to express a neutral attitude.Taking into account the age of the respondents, a five point scale was used forquestions number four and five. If the number of points on the scale had beengreater, learners would have had difficulties in the differentiation between the variousdegrees of agreement. the more points included in the scale, the more complicated aquestion is for the respondent and the responses are less valid. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  7. 7. Chart 3.1. Comparison of the answers to question 4: Is it important to you to includea religious context into school text books? 12 11 10 9 8 Students 6 6 4 3 2 1 0 strongly agree agree neutral disagree strongly disagreeTable 3.1. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate as answersto the fourth question Question IV Responses according to age category 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-olds Totalstrongly agree 1 2 0 3agree 1 2 3 6neutral 3 4 4 11disagree 2 4 3 9strongly disagree 0 1 0 1Total 7 13 10 30 The distribution of the results reveals similarities among different age groups.It allow us to summarise the corresponding numbers that represent those answersgiven by the students of each age under consideration. The majority of students wereneutral about a religious context in school text books. On both sides of the ‘neutral’ Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  8. 8. option there was almost the amount of those who agreed or disagreed with thestatement. This is quite obvious in the light of the previous results. Books are importantsources of information but there are others more often mentioned. The next statement refers to the topic of paying attention to other people’sbeliefs. The results of the question confirmed that the differences between the first,the second and the third years, if they occurred at all, made little difference to theoverall conclusion. The sample proved to be relatively homogenous and that is whyin analysis the answers to the fifth question may be discussed without dividing theminto age classes.Chart 3.2. Comparison of the answers to question 5: You usually pay a lot ofattention to other people’s beliefs. 14 13 12 10 8 Students 8 6 4 4 4 2 1 0 strongly agree agree neutral disagree strongly disagree Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  9. 9. Table 3.2. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate as answersto the fifth question Question V Responses according to age category 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-olds Totalstrongly agree 0 1 0 1agree 1 4 3 8neutral 5 4 4 13disagree 0 1 3 4strongly disagree 1 3 0 4Total 7 13 10 30 According to the given answers, the lower-secondary students do not caremuch about other people’s beliefs related to religion. One person also added “if thatperson is nice to me, I am nice to him. And never discriminate just becausesomebodys beliefs are not like mine”. It is obviously important to some extent, butthey also take other things into consideration. People live within societies andespecially in Europe there is a constant intermingling and interaction of ideas,attitudes and beliefs.4. Open-ended questions The next part of the survey concerned students’ knowledge about the term‘religious diversity’ and Europe. It covered open-ended questions VI and VII whichprovided some data about overall orientation on the subject. This kind of questions isquite difficult to process because learners tend to write down the first thought thatcomes into their mind without considering the content of the question. Therefore, all the answers were discussed without dividing them into ageclasses. The first step in processing responses was to note down all the answers. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  10. 10. Some flexibility in the approach to dealing with all the answers was necessary so thatthe process could be successfully completed. In the question six students wereasked to give an explanation of ‘religious diversity’. There were no remarkable differences among the given answers since the ageof respondents is quite close, they come from similar social backgrounds, learn in thesame school and undergo influences of the same pop culture. All of them have asimilar understanding of the concept of diversity. Below there are listed answers tothe question. Each definition brings something interesting and that is why they areworth mentioning: • a variety of beliefs, religions in one place, society, Europe; • a way to educate people as well as learn about different religions; • the existence of different religions in the world; • different people having different views on religions and different religions in a certain area; • In my opinion each of us has the right to their own religious consciousness and diversity of what we believe; • every person must have a choice, does she / he believes in God or not and what religion to choose; • it is a good way to know other traditions, culture but it leads to discrimination as well or a conflict between the followers of different religions; • we shouldn’t be closed for only one religion, but accept and develop our knowledge about the other religions and views; • I understand it as the concept of freedom of other religions, that different people may profess; • this is a diversity of faith in your own God, in views on the world and your own rules for life according to your religion; • Religious Diversity is a freedom of choice; • everyone can believe in everything, what he considers right and it should be tolerated by other people; Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  11. 11. • Religious Diversity for me are different religions, different beliefs but the same God • Religious Diversity – a mix of cultures, traditions and beliefs of people of different nations in one place (city/country); • I understand it as a name for all religions in the world. Each religion has own beliefs, culture, traditions and people; • Diversity is one of the most fascinating and important aspects of the community’s social life. I guess that it lets everybody believe in what they want and freely profess their religion. I think that thanks to religious diversity many cultures can mix and exchange views on things like their religious and theological ideas and theories. It allows people to enrich each of the religions in a beautiful and surprising way; • it also brings problems with reconciliation of the different beliefs; • diversity lets us be open to new people and in this way broadens our horizons; the freedom to believe in what people choose. The analysis of results shows that respondents used mostly words with positiveconnotations to describe the term ‘religious diversity’. Different religions have been afact throughout the entire history of all the worlds major living religious traditions.Religious pluralism is also another term related to the issue which goes beyond meretoleration. Chris Beneke, in Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of AmericanPluralism, 2006, explains the difference between religious tolerance and religiouspluralism: "The policy of tolerance relieved religious minorities of some physicalpunishments and some financial burdens, but it did not make them free from theindignities of prejudice and exclusion. Nor did it make them equal. Those toleratedcould still be barred from civil offices, military positions, and university posts."Therefore, religious toleration is only the absence of religious persecution, and doesnot necessarily preclude religious discrimination. Mark Silka, in Defining ReligiousPluralism in America: A Regional Analysis, July 2007, states that Religious pluralism"enables a country made up of people of different faiths to exist without sectarianwarfare or the persecution of religious minorities. Understood differently in different Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  12. 12. times and places, it is a cultural construct that embodies some shared conception ofhow a countrys various religious communities relate to each other and to the largernation whole." There are six basic responses to religious diversity taken from Chad Meister’sIntroducing Philosophy of Religion, April 6, 2009: • atheism: all religions are false. • agnosticism: there’s no way to tell which religion, if any, is true. • religious relativism: each religion “works” for its adherents, but there is no truth about religion that transcends tradition. • religious pluralism: all religions are correct, they just offer a different path and have a different perspective on the Ultimate Reality. • religious inclusivism: only one religion is fully correct, but it’s still possible to attain salvation or nirvana through another religion. • religious exclusivism: salvation can be attained only through the one true religion; all others are mistaken. We live in a world of beliefs and religions. The image below displays theWorldwide Percentage Of Adherents By Religion as of mid 2005. According to thedata Christianity is the worlds largest religion with over 2 billion adherents. Thismeans that one third of the whole world’s population profess Christianity. Mark Tooley in “Thriving Christianity” (2011) reports that the number increaseworldwide with every new day: “Christians today are estimated to number about 2.3 billion. About 1.5 billion areestimated to attend church regularly at over 5 million congregations, up from 400,000100 years ago. There are estimated to be 1.6 billion Muslims, 951 million Hindus, and 468 millionBuddhists. Atheists are thought to be 137 million, a declining number. The report Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  13. 13. estimates about 80,000 new Christians every day, 79,000 new Muslims every day,and 300 fewer atheists every day.” Figure 4.1. http://timothyministries.org/theologicaldictionary/references.aspx?theword=religious%20pluralism Therefore, Christianity is not only the largest, but, in terms of sheer numbers, it isthe fastest growing religion. Although Christianity has a massive lead throughouthistory, Muslims and Hindus combined comprise the next two largest religions. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  14. 14. Table 4.1. Religion stats: Poland vs United Kingdom Polish Religion stats British Religion statsCatholics 34,573,000 4,669,000Catholics as 95.84 8.45percentageCatholic > Parishes 10,036 3,168Catholic > Total 26,931 6,003PriestsChurch attendance 55% 27%Islam > Percentage 0.08% 2.7%MuslimIslam > Population 30,090 1,631,919Jehovahs Witnesses 128,519 127,206Jews 8,000 300,000Protestantism > Bycountry > 130,000 36,000,000ProtestantsProtestantism > Bycountry > 0.34 % 60 %Protestants > %Protestant Roman Catholic 89.8% Christian (Anglican, Roman (about 75% practicing), Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist)Religions > All Eastern Orthodox 1.3%, 71.6%, Muslim 2.7%, Hindu 1%, Protestant 0.3%, other 0.3%, other 1.6%, unspecified or none unspecified 8.3% (2002) 23.1% (2001 census)Roman Catholicism> By country > % 96 % 14 %CatholicSeventh-dayAdventist 5,691 24,083Membership http://www.nationmaster.com/compare/Poland/United-Kingdom/Religion Discussing the approach to the term ‘religious diversity in such a widely variedworld makes sense in the light of the presented figures. Religious diversity isperceived by students through such words as freedom, culture, education,knowledge, toleration, consciousness, choice, tradition and acceptance. Although, Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  15. 15. some of them pointed out some negative connotations attached to the term such asproblems with reconciliation the different beliefs or discrimination or a conflictbetween the followers of different religions. It means that they are aware of bothpositive and negative effects that religious diversity may bring to societies. Co-existence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations is notalways harmonious and without problems. Rita M. Gross in Religious Diversity: Some Implication for Monotheism (1999),referring to the words of Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (1957), statesthat “The strong tendency to display hostility toward different religious positions isconnected with a strong tendency toward xenophobia and ethnocentrism. Thisreaction seems to be built into conventional human responses and has even beenincluded among the major responses of religious people to their environment by thegreat historian of religions.” In the next question respondents were asked to express their understanding ofEurope. Again, it was an open-ended question focusing on students understanding,their ability to reason, and their ability to apply knowledge in less traditional contexts.The question required from respondents more than memorising facts and lead tomultiple answers. That may be the reason that not all of the respondents made theeffort to answer the question. Below, there is a list of different answers given by thestudents: • Europe is rather small, but very diverse continent, a place where nations and countries have been fighting among themselves throughout the ages, a place where the influences of the East, South, West and the North have met and created an original mix of cultures and nations; • Europe is a place where everyone can feel himself, be himself. Every culture is accepted. Europe is a beautiful, colourful and tolerant place; • I consider Europe as a multicultural continent on which I live; Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  16. 16. • In my view, Europe is very diverse in terms of religions and culture, but it is not fully united and reluctant to accept any change; • It is a difficult question, but... Europe is for me a collection of different cultures and nationalities that exist side by side and blend together; • Nowadays, as the European Union is so important and powerful, it creates a great bond linking half of the European countries. Sometimes, we can even think of them as one body! The continent is enormously developed and economically strong. Thanks to the high standard of life we have, our community can focus on more subtle issues, such as ecology or tolerance. I am happy to live in such an open place, with people who care about making our lives better and better; • There are many religions in the Europe, but I think most Europeans are Catholics; • One of the Continents comprising of several countries with similar culture, religion and kind of people; • A group of countries being the west world basic example of culture. There were also several answers having almost the same meaning. Studentsdescribed Europe in geographic terms as a continent, a place where there aredifferent cultures, religions, customs. “The countries that are the continent of Europe.In this questionnaire specifically the people of Europe or Europe as a community.” Some students expressed here their sympathy for Europe. The use of wordsreflects positive and almost enthusiastic feelings and emotions related to the term: • I like Europe; • I love Europe so much I’m very happy to live in Europe. Others tried to link the definition to religious diversity: • People in Europe are given the freedom of choice, Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  17. 17. • Most people in Europe believe in Jesus Christ; • Europe is Catholic, but we do not have to pay attention to other people’s beliefs; • In Europe there are many different religions but majority of people believe in Jesus Christ; • It will be better if there are more diverse religious in Europe and every religion will be treated fairly. The given answers are relevant to the subjects own knowledge, feelings, lifeexperience and attitudes. Taking into account the age of respondents, they reflectquite a deep understanding of the surrounding world and social conscience to theproblems it has been facing.5. Closed-ended questions These questions do not require such complex thinking as the previous type.Closed-ended questions give respondents a choice of answers and the respondent issupposed to select one or more from among a provided list. Still, respondents had toknow how to transfer and fit their thoughts to the given answers. In the eight question of the questionnaire Religious Diversity in Europestudents had to express their opinion on the involvement of schools in programmesthat include others from diverse religious traditions. Table 5.1 shows the distributionof their answers to the question. It was a question which allowed the respondents to tick more than one choicebut without ranking. Some students ticked three answers, others chose two but agreat majority of respondents gave only one answer. That is why a summarization ofthe total results of all age categories gives more than 30 responses. Given that allrespondents tick only one answer the total number would be 30 responses. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  18. 18. Table 5.1. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate as answersto the eight question Question VIII Responses according to age category 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-olds Totalbecause it wants to promote a 6 11 3 20culture of tolerancebecause it wants to give us theopportunity to meet pupils from 1 5 4 10the other religious communitiesbecause it wants to give us theopportunity to meet pupils from 0 2 1 3other schoolsbecause it is just one of those 1 1 0 2things that schools get involved inAll of the above 0 1 6 7Total 8 20 14 42 The results show that , according to students, schools get involved inprogrammes that include others from diverse religious traditions in order to promote aculture of tolerance. It was the most frequently indicated answer to the question. Theopportunity to meet pupils from the other religious communities takes the secondplace. The given answers follow a similar pattern across two age categories: 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds. Referring to the last category, 15-year-olds, it must bementioned that their perception of educational institutions and their roles may bemore complex than that of the previous groups. That is why they are able to see suchprogrammes and their implications from a broader perspective. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  19. 19. In general, the chosen population should be in a position to answer thequestions. Thus, while developing the questionnaire it is advisable not to askquestions that are beyond the students knowledge. However, there is “dont know”response allowed to the ninth question. This was because the question requiredsome knowledge about majority religious group and the minorities which somestudents might lack. Students’ answers to the question nine of the Religious Diversity in Europequestionnaire reveal that they are ignorant of the threats related to problems betweenthe majority and the minority religious groups. As the results show, students either donot have sufficient knowledge on the topic or they cannot project information fromone subject to another. The problem may also be discussed in terms of the existingeducational system in Poland which is still highly structured. The divisions betweensubjects, especially at lower-secondary and high levels are strict.Table 5.2. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate as answersto the ninth question: Do you think citizens belonging to the majority religious groupin a country treat those in the minorities fairly? Frequency Responses according to age category Valid Question IX percent 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-oldsYes 1 1 6 8 26.67%Don’t Know 6 4 3 13 43.33%No 0 8 1 9 10%Total 7 13 10 30 100% The question required some knowledge from History, Citizenship, Ethics orReligious Education and even form literature, not to mention the media and theInternet in particular. Apart from the knowledge they acquire at school they are Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  20. 20. members of society and citizens of Europe. Although, the population in Poland israther religiously homogenous, the mass media show quite a different picture ofEurope. Being a melting pot comprised of a hugely diverse population, it sometimesfaces religious riots and disturbances. It is possible, however, that the question was too general and the respondentsdid not know what should be taken into consideration. In Poland, the problem is notso prominent as we live in the part of the world in which Christianity prevails. The next question was devoted to different results religious diversity maybring. And again, respondents were allowed to tick more than one choice but withoutranking. The results are shown in the following table.Table 5.3. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate as answersto the tenth question: Do you think that any of the following are a result of religiousdiversity in Europe? Frequency Responses according to age category Valid Question X percent 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-oldsUnemployment 1 2 1 4 8.89%Immigration 1 6 4 11 24.44%Poverty 0 1 1 2 4.44%Civil Unrest 0 4 2 6 13.33%Discrimination 5 9 7 21 46.67%All of the above 1 0 0 1 2.22%Total 8 22 15 45 100% First of all, discrimination is perceived as the result of religious diversity inEurope. From the broader perspective, it is common to discuss discrimination on thegrounds of religion. Another issue related to the problem is the connection betweenstereotypes and prejudice which emerge from behind the shadows. Whilst the law Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  21. 21. cannot control stereotypes or prejudice, it can address discriminatory behaviourwhich may be the result of certain beliefs and attitudes. Immigration is quite important as a result of religious diversity in Europe. Ittakes the second place among the respondents’ choices. Europe is becoming moreopen and quite a desirable destination for those who have suffered from religiouspersecution. The policy towards different religions and denominations in Europe isquite liberal which may attract people who have experienced mistreatment as aresponse to their religious beliefs. Some students pointed out Civil Unrest as a result of religious diversity inEurope. Everything we encounter in our day-to-day life brings its benefits as well asdrawbacks. Diversity enriches culture, broadens our perception but it may lead todifferent problems too. What is interesting, unemployment and poverty seem not tohave much in common with religious diversity in the opinion of the respondents.Figure 5.1. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate asanswers to the tenth question: Do you think that any of the following are a result ofreligious diversity in Europe? 2,22% 8,89% Unemployment Im igration m 24,44% Poverty Civ Unrest il Discrimination 46,67% All of the above 4,44% 13,33% In eleventh question students were asked to rate the extent to which theywould be bothered having neighbours of a different religious tradition and to respondto the question on a 10-point scale (1 = not bothered at all - 10= very bothered). Thescale was easy to administer, as students were invited to place a mark on a visualscale to indicate their level of agreement with a statement. The coding procedure Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  22. 22. involved here converting the respondents answers to numbers and counting thefrequency of each. Thus, the answer ’not bothered’ was coded 1 and ‘very bothered’as 10.Figure 5.2. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate asanswers to the eleventh question: Rate the extent to which you would be botheredhaving neighbours who were a different religious tradition to you. 16 14 14 12 10 8 6 6 4 3 2 2 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 In general students are not bothered by having neighbours of a different religioustradition. Over 60% per cent of respondents would not attach much importance to thebeliefs of their neighbours. Definitely there are other factors such as hospitality,understanding, politeness or friendliness that may be taken here into consideration.Which was confirmed during panel discussions on religious diversity among thestudent. They mostly pay attention to the personal features of a person rather than totheir religion. Beliefs are important in respect to moral values an what is generallyaccepted in society but they do not define the person under consideration. Religious diversity may bring about among benefits some conflicts. In the nextquestion, students were asked to express their opinion on what may be related toreligious diversity in such a context. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  23. 23. Table 5.4. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate as answersto the twelfth question: Do you think conflict related to religious diversity is broughtabout by …? Frequency Responses according to age category Valid Question XII percent 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-oldsIgnorance 3 4 3 10 19.23%Prejudice 0 6 2 8 15.38%Fear 1 2 2 5 6.62%Insensitivity 0 1 1 2 3.85%Stereotyping 5 10 5 20 38.46%All of the above 0 2 5 7 13.46Total 9 25 18 52 100% The question allowed the respondents to tick more than one choice but withoutranking. That is why a summarization of the total results of all age categories givesmore than 30 responses. Some of the respondents ticked only one answer, otherschose two or three , which was the maximum number allowed. According to respondents, conflict related to religious diversity is broughtabout mainly by perceiving others through stereotypes. However, a person’sbehaviour may not be consistent with relevant stereotypes and thus the question ofstereotype change which is of great importance nowadays. Stereotyping itself maylead to discrimination even in the absence of underlying prejudice. In this wayquestion twelve and ten are linked and the responses to them show that they arecoherent in the given context. In general, strong and consistent attitudes or beliefs Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  24. 24. are a stable predictor of discrimination, although the way people behave towardsothers is dependent on various other resources too. Although stereotyping is at the top of the list, students pointed out that conflictsrelated to religious diversity may also be caused by ignorance and prejudice. All theconcepts, though, are linked to each other. Preconceptions once formed are verydifficult to change and, as a result, they may lead to prejudice. On the one hand,stereotypes are powerful cognitive structures, they help people to make sense of thesurrounding world, serve to process a large amount of information coming from theworld. On the other hand, however, stereotypes used to be thought of as unfair andincorrect portrayals of social or religious groups. Applying negative stereotypes may be the result of ignorance because it iseasier to adopt a point of view shared by the majority without spending much timethinking about it. Moreover, negative stereotypes are often culturally conditioned,they emerge in various contexts and serve different purposes imposed by thosecontexts. The picture would be not complete without considering any benefits whichreligious diversity may bring to society. They were examined in the next question antthe results are discussed below.Table 5.5. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate as answersto the thirteenth question: What benefits does religious diversity bring to society? Frequency Responses according to age category Valid Question XIII percent 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-oldsPromotes toleranceand understanding 4 9 5 18 32.14%Reduces 4 5 2 11 19.64%discriminationEconomic 0 0 1 1 1.79%sustainability Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  25. 25. Enriches community 0 3 1 4 7.14%spiritImproves cultural 1 7 5 13 23.21%experiencesA sense of 0 0 2 2 3.57%commonalityImproves facilities for 0 2 1 3 5.36%minority groupsAll of the above 0 2 2 4 7.14%Total 9 28 19 56 100% Analysis of the answers to the question thirteen shows which benefits were themost important for students. Among other answers, promoting tolerance andunderstanding seems to be the factor of great importance to them. Almost one thirdof the whole surveyed population believed that religious diversity has such a positiveimpact on society. This together with improving cultural experience gives half of thegathered data. Teenagers pointed also out that religious diversity reducesdiscrimination. This is interesting because, according to the results of thequestionnaire, religious diversity may lead to discrimination and it may help to dealwith it at the same time.Table 5.6. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate as answersto the fourteenth question: Do you think there should be freedom of movement ofcitizens within Europe regardless of religious tradition? Frequency Responses according to age category ValidQuestion XIV percent 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-oldsYes 5 13 6 24 80%Don’t Know 2 0 1 3 10%No 0 0 3 3 10%Total 7 13 10 30 100% Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  26. 26. Immigration was another factor perceived as quite significant with regard toreligious diversity. Students’ attitudes toward the problem of freedom of movement ofcitizens are analysed considering the results of the next question.Figure 5.3. Do you think there should be freedom of movement of citizens withinEurope regardless of religious tradition? Don’t Know Yes No 10% Don’t Know 10% No Yes 80% The results and the figure show that although immigration is thought of as oneof more important factors, teenagers were not against the freedom of movement ofcitizens regardless of religious tradition. The majority of them expressed the beliefthat there should be such freedom allowed within Europe. A relatively smallpercentage of respondents, namely 6%, did not approve of the idea. The results are in accordance with the results to the question number eleven.Generally, students would not mind having neighbours who were of a differentreligious tradition to them. Nowadays, when there are no boundaries between somecountries, it would be difficult to stop or to ban such movement. Education here is thekey to promoting understanding and increasing the knowledge about differentreligions. The role of school education in this respect is unquestionable. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  27. 27. Table 5.7. Comparison of the different results which students enumerate as answersto the fifteenth question: Do you think that European schools contribute to religiousdivision? Frequency Responses according to age category ValidQuestion XV percent 13-year-olds 14-year-olds 15-year-oldsYes 1 5 3 9 30%Don’t Know 6 4 2 12 40%No 0 4 5 9 30%Total 7 13 10 30 100% However, as is shown by the results, students are not so sure about the role ofschools and their contribution to religious division. The distribution of results is almostequal for each answer provided. Within the chart there are more visible differencesbetween age categories, but they do not influence much the overall result. It seemsthat they are not familiar enough with the relevant data or do not possess enoughknowledge on the matter. All in all, it gives no clear answer and it may be a startingpoint to another questionnaire exploring the topic in detail.6. Conclusion The objective of the survey was to find out how Polish learners of a lower-secondary school perceive religious diversity in the school context as well as in amuch broader European dimension and what factors they may take intoconsideration concerning the issue. The analysis is based on the results of thequestionnaire Religious Diversity in Europe conducted among lower-secondarystudents learning English as a foreign language. The questionnaire was created as ajoint work of schools cooperating within the Comenius School Partnership,‘Communication Connects Cultures through Comenius’. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  28. 28. In the light of the figures presented and discussed, characteristics of thestudents’ group under consideration emerge. It is revealed that girls are more eagerto take part in such surveys than boys. In general, teenagers acquire their knowledgeabout different religions mainly from parents, then from the Internet and othersources. School is important in the process but the most important is the home theyhave been brought up in. that is the main source of their information and, in mostcases, beliefs. The selected group of students do not pay much attention to the religiouscontents in their course books. They show rather neutral attitude to such contents aswell as toward other people’s beliefs related to religion. It does not mean that they donot care but rather they would not judge a person by the beliefs or the religionprofessed. Although the society in Poland is quite homogenous as far as differentreligions are concerned, students show an open-minded approach to the question ofreligious diversity. Their definitions of the issue compared with the given definitions ofEurope reflect understanding, tolerance and even empathy toward other beliefs,cultures, nations. Europe is perceived as a multicultural place where everybody canfind a place to live in no matter what his religion or beliefs are. In the context of religious diversity, tolerance is quite important to them as wellas the ability to see the threats of discrimination which lie on the other end. Theyexpress the opinion that such diversity may contribute to the better understanding ofdifferent cultures and promote the culture of tolerance. On the other hand, they do not know much about the school curriculum or theproblems majority groups or the minorities have been facing, though they are awareof the negative impact of stereotypes and ignorance. Along with prejudice they maylead to conflicts related to religious diversity. All in all, the surveyed teenagers are still undergoing the process of changeand are still broadening their knowledge. They are on a quest of searching out their Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.
  29. 29. own way, the source of truth, values, beliefs. The fact that they look at the issue ofreligious diversity from such a broad-minded and positive perspective is encouraging. Copyright © 2011 Urszula Kogut, All Rights Reserved.

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