Religion, education and conflict in Northern Ireland
The aim of this article is to re‐evaluate and reaffirm the contribution of the churches and of Christianity to the realization in Northern Ireland schools of legitimate and progressive educational values such as the cultivation of tolerance, moral integrity and civic virtue. Implicit in this is a critique of educational initiatives that seek to undermine the influence of Christianity in schools. There is also discussion of the reasons why the increasing secularization of education in Northern Ireland should be resisted. The paper begins with a brief historical overview of the ongoing tension between religious and secular influences in education and notes the ways in which developments in education have tended to marginalize religion and to denude public education of Christian religious content and influence. Critical attention is then given to the role of religion in the Northern Ireland conflict, for it is the conviction that the conflict is religious that provides much of the stimulus for efforts to secularize education and schools. This is followed by some brief comments on the positive role that religion can play in religious education and in schools. The article concludes with a brief review of the reasons why a proper balance between secular and religious influences in schools in Northern Ireland should be maintained.
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