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Religion and Education in the Age of Globalization: The Attempt of Education in Religious Culture in Japan

Panel Chair: Kikuko Hirafuji | Monday, August 24, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

The numbers of foreigners living in Japan and Japanese working abroad are increasing in the advance of globalization. This social change requires that Japanese have not only to understand foreign religious culture but also to obtain the ability of understanding and explaining Japanese myths and religions. Additionally, since the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 problems with “cults” have become a topic to be addressed in education. A novel approach to these problems is a Japanese university program called “Education in Religious Culture”. In this panel, we will illustrate the problems concerning myths and education as well as problems with "cults". We explain the background of the necessity for an Education in Religious Culture and discuss its contributions for society. Finally, we will compare the Japanese religious situation with that of the German multicultural society.

Kikuko Hirafuji

Myth education from a global perspective

Teaching mythology had been a taboo in Japanese education since 1945. Part of the reason was that in previous years myths had been taught to justify Japanese colonialism and to arouse nationalism. Nowadays, however, primary school students must learn about Japanese myths in Japanese language classes. In the context of Education in Religious Culture for college students, the main theme of our panel, mythology has been identified as one of the main topics to be studied. In addition to this, myths are very attractive elements known through pop culture. Thus, due to the advance of globalization many young people in an information society like Japan are familiar with myths from all over the world. In my presentation, I look back at the history of Japanese mythology, and explore perspectives for teaching myths and mythology in an age of globalization.

Yoshihide Sakurai

Religious Diversity and University Education to Prevent Cult Problems

In contemporary Japan, traditional, new, and foreign religions have expanded religious diversity and activities, which is protected by the constitutions that guarantee religious freedom and prohibit political intervention in religious affairs. As an unintended result, however, cult problems cannot be easily solved under such context. The Aum (its successors: Aleph), which killed 28 peoples until 1995, still holds more than 1, 500 members. And similarly the Unification Church, which committed fraud that caused damage of approximately 115.6 billion yen since 1987, is still active. To protect students against cults’ solicitation on and off-campus, the University Network for Cult Prevention was established in 2009 that facilitated exchanges of cults’ information among 160 universities. I will explain the agenda for cult prevention in freshman seminar and counselling in universities, and then suggest what we should teach in university curriculum to protect religious freedom and recover trust in religion in public sphere.

Nobutaka Inoue

Religious Culture Education Seen From Global Perspectives

The religious culture education concept was developed in Japan in the 2000s following comparative research on how religion is taught about from a secular perspective in Japan, Korea, and elsewhere in Asia as well as Europe. The research showed how cultural and institutional differences influence education about religious culture. The concept is an approach that would permit teaching about religious culture in Japan even in public schools guided by the principle of church-state separation. The goal is to provide basic knowledge and appropriate understandings of domestic and foreign religions as the era of globalization demands. The Center for Education in Religious Culture was established in Tokyo in January 2011, and a system created for educators to obtain certifications as a specialist in religious culture. This system is in keeping with Japanese educational and administrative precedents, however, and as such there may be limits on this model's applicability to other countries.

Birgit Staemmler

Comparing Religious Education in Globalizing Germany and Japan

The religious landscape in Germany has changed considerably since the immediate postwar period when legislation regarding religious education in schools was promulgated. The traditional dual monopoly of the Roman Catholic and the Prostestant Christian churches that had been put in charge of religious education at schools has been weakened through secularization as well as supplemented by growing muslim communities. These changes are reflected by an increasing number of pupils taught in „Ethics“ rather than „Religious Education“ and by heated discussions about suitable religious education for muslim pupils. This paper will complement the preceding papers by briefly introducing the religious education systems in German schools. It will then compare the Japanese and the German situations with special (critical) attention to religious education in the face of globalization and religious pluralism.


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