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Does Prayer Really “Count” for Anything?

Date:08 October 2018
Author:Anishka Gheewala-Lohiya
What counts as ‘prayer,’ and is it a category with cross-cultural utility? In this blog post, Anishka Gheewala-Lohiya reflects on her fieldwork with Pushtimarg Hindus in India and the UK to argue for an expanded understanding of the concept among devotees of the baby Krishna.
statue forgiveness

The Politics of Apology: Zimbabwe After the 2018 Elections

Date:10 September 2018
Author:Joram Tarusarira
Dr Joram Tarusarira, Director of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation and Assistant Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding, reflects on politics in Zimbabwe after the 2018 elections, cautioning against simplistic calls for apologies and forgiveness.
Picture taken by F. Pool during fieldwork

Do Muslims in the Netherlands Fail to Secularise? Reflecting on the SCP Report from an Indian Perspective

Date:25 June 2018
Author:Fernande Pool
Does piety threaten secularism? In this post, Fernande Pool examines the recent Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) report on Islam in the Netherlands, challenging the implicit bias contained within its use of ‘religion’ and ‘secularity’.
Maria statue at Rennes-le-Chateaux

Is the French State Really ‘Secular’? Some Reflections on Municipal Laïcité

Date:18 June 2018
Author:Dr. Julia Martínez-Ariño
How is laïcité – official state secularism – practiced in contemporary France? In this post, the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s Dr. Julia Martínez-Ariño discusses recent research in the cities of Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse to suggest that laïcité takes many forms in French municipalities – including the recognition and support of ‘religious’ actors and institutions.

No More “Harmful Traditional Practices”! Gender Activism and Faith Leaders in International Development

Date:02 May 2018
Author:Religion Factor
Researchers from the University of Groningen and the University of Stellenbosch recently concluded a one-year study on the role of faith leaders in challenging gender-based violence and gender inequality. The study, “Working effectively with faith leaders to challenge harmful traditional practices,” explores faith leaders’ roles in challenging gender-based violence and made recommendations for how the faith dimensions in development work can be taken seriously (rather than merely instrumentalised).
Icelandic Flag

Circumscribing the Body Politic: Circumcision, Religious Freedom and Identity in Europe

Date:29 March 2018
Author:Méadhbh McIvor
In February 2018, Icelandic Member of Parliament Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir made international news by proposing a bill that would criminalise the circumcision of male children for non-medical reasons. The bill, which is supported by the ruling Progressive Party and Left-Green coalition, has sparked heated debates within Iceland (and beyond): while its supporters argue that circumcision is akin to child abuse, and ought, therefore, to be subject to the penalties of criminal law, its opponents point to the particular burden the law would place on Jewish and Muslim families seeking to parent within their respective religious traditions.

The Power to Call for ‘Inclusion Riders’: Violence and Innocence in Gender Activism

Date:08 March 2018
Author:Dr Brenda Bartelink
In a post to mark International Women’s Day, Dr Brenda Bartelink problematizes the selective language of ‘harmful cultural practices’, challenging the development sector to confront its ongoing colonial biases as it seeks to improve the lives of women and girls.

Saints of the Shaking Earth

Date:10 January 2018
Author:Dr. Alanna Cant
We start the new year with a post by Dr Alanna Cant. Drawing on recent fieldwork in Oaxaca, Mexico, Cant explores church-state relations through the lens of church restoration, religious ‘heritage’, and popular devotion to the saints.

The Lived Religion Project

Date:18 December 2017
Author:Drs Fernande Pool and Timothy Stacey
Drs Fernande Pool and Timothy Stacey (see bio’s at end of this post) have recently launched the Lived Religion Project (, a story project focusing on the ‘religious’ lives of ordinary people.

Why Justice Requires More than a Verdict: Religion and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Date:15 December 2017
Author:Sanne Hupkes
In today’s post, Sanne Hupkes reflects on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's (ICTY) trial of Ratko Mladic. Sanne is a PhD student whose research focuses on the role of (power-sharing) democracy in peace operations. She is concerned with the place of (religious) collective identities within democracy in post-conflict societies. Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of the sites of her research.

The Necessary Complexity of Freedom of Religion or Belief

Date:27 November 2017
Author:Gary McLelland
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this collaborative Religion Factor and Religion: Going Public blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious liberty. In our final post, Gary McLelland of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) mounts a defence of the necessary complexity of freedom of religion or belief from the perspective of a human rights practitioner.

Silent Borders

Date:20 November 2017
Author:Lourdes Peroni
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this collaborative Religion Factor and Religion: Going Public blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious liberty. In this post, ​Lourdes Peroni examines the enforcement of unspoken normative borders by administrative bodies and lower courts.

The Agency of Agencies: Bureaucracy and the Politics of Religious Freedom

Date:13 November 2017
Author:​Richard Amesbury
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this collaborative Religion Factor and Religion: Going Public blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious rights. In this post, Professor ​Richard Amesbury examines bureaucracy’s politics of depoliticisation.

Boredom in the Court

Date:06 November 2017
Author:Dr Méadhbh McIvor
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation’s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this collaborative Religion Factor and Religion: Going Public blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious rights. In this post, the Centre's Dr Méadhbh McIvor responds to Helge Årsheim by reflecting on sex, politics, and legal tedium.

Deus in Machina: How Bureaucrats Determine Religious Freedom

Date:30 October 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
How does the law shape the category of (free) religion, and by which mechanisms does this shaping occur? Building on conversations started at theCentre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation‘s recent conference, ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing Beyond Essentialism’, this blog series explores law’s approach to – and creation of – religion and religious rights. Helge Årsheim opens our exchange by asking: How should scholars of religion understand the ‘fine print’ that determines the limits of religious freedom?

Beyond religious freedom: the Rohingya and the politics of religious rights in Myanmar

Date:24 August 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
In today’s blogpost the key note speaker of our Jubilee Conference, Elizabeth Shakman Hurdexplores the politics of religious difference and the problems and challenges raised by religious freedom in the protection of minorities through a case study of the Rohingya in Myanmar. Prof Hurd will be speaking on the topic of ‘Thinking Differently about religion, politics and power’ on 13 September. Today’s post is a brief introduction to themes she will explore in greater depth in her talk.

A story of oppression: freedom of expression, minorities, sexual harassment law and offence

Date:15 July 2017
Author:Aukje Muller
Numerous events in the European public sphere, from the Danish cartoons affair to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and their aftermath, have provoked a significant debate about the notion of offence in relation to religious sensibilities, as well as on the potential limitations of freedom of expression. Yet, it is not just in relation to religious minorities and religious sensibilities that the issue of offence is important. The nature of offence, and the right to be offended are also crucial components of responses to sexual harassment. In this blog post, Aukje Muller explores what, if anything, we might learn by considering approaches to offence within sexual harassment law that could help us navigate the tricky terrain of religious minority rights, freedom of expression and offence in contemporary European politics.

The vanishing option of not being political about religion: Reflections on “Ahok”

Date:26 May 2017
Author:Religion Factor
The Ahok case in Indonesia has sent ripples through the international community, raising concerns about human rights and freedom of religion or belief in the Indonesian context. In today’s post, Christoph Gruell draws on his research experiences in Cirebon, Java, to unpack what is going on in the Ahok case and the dangers that arise when it becomes increasingly impossible not to be political about your religious identity.

Did the Netherlands halt populism? Political pluralism, religious diversity and the spirit of accommodation in 21st century Dutch politics

Date:24 March 2017
Author:Sanne Hupkes
Today’s post is the second article on the Dutch elections that were held last week written by Sanne Hupkes, this time a reaction to the results of the elections and the conclusions drawn from those by some Dutch politicians. Has populism actually been ‘halted’, as some claim? And is there something like ‘the wrong kind of populism’?

Sexual equality and post-truth: making distinctions

Date:20 March 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
On 7 March 2017, the eve of International Women’s Day, the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain, in collaboration with the Centre for Gender Studies, hosted a panel discussion evening on ‘Gender and Sexual Equality in a Post-Truth Age’. Four panellists contributed to the conversation and over the next few weeks we will be publishing some of their remarks here on The Religion Factor. Today we have the first instalment from Frederik Boven, coordinator of the workgroup LGBT and religion of the Groningen and Drenthe chapter of the Dutch LGBT organisation COC Netherlands.

The quarter finals against populism: national identity in the Dutch elections

Date:15 March 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
Renée van der Harst – Wagenvoorde has written an analysis of the campaigning period and how it differs from previous years of the Dutch parliamental elections that will take place on the 15th of March. Renée is a postdoctoral research fellow and the funding officer of the Centre of Religion and the Public Domain.

The ‘religion or secularism’ debate on women’s equality obscures the real problem: patriarchy

Date:08 March 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
Is ‘religion’ patriarchal, antithetical to gender equality? This was a question posed last night during the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain #IWD2017 panel discussion on ‘Gender and Sexual Equality in a Post-Truth Age’. On International Women’s Day 2017, Erin K. Wilson explores this question, arguing that actually, this is the wrong question to be asking.
Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the USA.

The insidious inequality of contemporary democracy

Date:27 January 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
Despite pledging that ‘a new national pride will heal our divisions’, Trump’s first week in office has been conspicuous by its lack of conciliation towards those who did not support him in his run for the White House and in the actions he has taken to further marginalize women, Muslims, immigrants, Native Americans and all those who identify with and support these groups.

Waarom Nederlanders geen taboes rondom seksualiteit moeten willen doorbreken

Date:26 January 2017
Author:Roos Feringa
In de afgelopen zes jaar zijn Seksuele Gezondheid en Rechten (SRGR) een speerpunt geweest in het ontwikkelingsbeleid. Zo noemde Minister PloumenNederland een voortrekker in het doorbreken van taboes rondom seksualiteit en gender. Deze week nog nam Minister Ploumen stelling in tegen het besluit van President Trump om de Global Gag Rule opnieuw in werking te laten treden.

Can Religion Promote Reconciliation in Zimbabwe?

Date:21 December 2016
Author:Roos Feringa

Zimbabwe still struggles to cope in the aftermath of the economic and political violence of the early to mid-2000s. To many observers, Zimbabwe remains a divided and undemocratic ‘failed state’. In today’s post, Gladys Ganiel reviews a new book by Joram Ta...

Review ‘Reconciliation and Religio-political Non-conformism in Zimbabwe’

Date:21 December 2016
Author:Roos Feringa
The day before Christmas we will conclude our series on Joram Tarusarira’s new book ‘Reconciliation and Religio-political Non-conformism in Zimbabwe’ (read the previous review here) with yet another review written by Vlado Kmec. Vlado currently works at the University of Cambridge and is a fellow of the CRCPD. He offers expertise to the Centre in religion and migration; religion in conflict and peacebuilding; ethnic and religious conflicts; religion and international relations; mediation and negotiation; the United Nations peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and the EU Common Security and Defence Policy.

Reflections on a ‘horror campaign’ to draw attention to the global impact of HIV and AIDS (Netherlands)

Date:20 December 2016
Author:Religion Factor
On International Human Solidarity Day 2016 a blog post by Brenda Bartelink. Recently, the Dutch Aidsfonds stopped a confrontational campaign on the rise of HIV-infections and deaths worldwide after a complaint by a prominent Dutch lawyer that this campaign unduly stigmatized people living with HIV and AIDS. In today’s post Brenda Bartelink argues that there is more at stake than the stigmatization of people living with HIV in the Netherlands. To broaden the discussion, she compares the Aidsfonds campaign to a campaign that was developed by religious leaders in Sub Saharan Africa -now implemented worldwide- as an example of how the usual dilemma’s surrounding such campaigns can be overcome.

Reconciliation and Religio-political non-conformism in Zimbabwe

Date:20 December 2016
Author:Roos Feringa
Earlier this year, Joram Tarusarira published his important book that analyses religious actors and identifies a specific form of engagement that they display in contexts of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Joram Tarisarira is a lecturer in Religion and Conflict and Deputy Director of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen.In today’s post, the author provides a summary of the main insights from the book.
Peace in Colombia

Peace in Colombia: An ambitious project finally starts

Date:15 December 2016
Author:Religion Factor
Two weeks ago, Colombia’s congress ratified the peace agreement that has been painstakingly negotiated, voted on and renegotatied in the last months. In today’s post, dr. Sandra Rios analyses some of the key factors, including the role of religious actors, at stake in the journey to peace in Colombia.

CRCPD’s public lecture by Prof. John Paul Lederach – ‘Mobilizing the moral imagination’

Date:30 November 2016
Author:Religion Factor
Tomorrow, 1st of December, Professor John Paul Lederach will, in a lecture organised by The Centre of Religion and Conflict in the Public Domain, talk about ‘Mobilizing the moral imagination: Religion in the landscape of fragmentation’. Join us for the lecture and the discussion with great panel of expert respondents: dr. Michelle Parlevliet, specialist in Conflict Resolution and Governance at UVA, Fulco van Deventer, director at the Human Security Collective in the Hague and Simone Filippini, previous CEO and current advisor at Cordaid.

The Problem is Religion – but not in the way we think

Date:23 March 2016
Author:Religion Factor
The terror attacks in Brussels on Tuesday have once again raised questions about the relationship between religion and violence. In today’s post, Erin Wilsonreflects on these issues, exploring key arguments made by Prof William Cavanaugh during his recent lecture in Groningen and book The Myth of Religious Violence. 

Integration following the Big Five of Citizenship

Date:05 November 2015
Author:Tim Swanger
Newcomers are increasingly expected to adapt to Dutch culture. This narrow interpretation of citizenship is exclusive by nature. By focusing on tolerance and social engagement instead, a shared national identity will evolve by itself.
A rally in support of the “No” Vote in the Greek referendum against the austerity reforms being demanded by the EU, Syntagma Square, Athens, 3 July 2015. Source: Ggia, Wikimedia Commons, Shared Under Creative Commons License 4.0

No Time for Despair: Neoliberalism, Democracy and (the absence of) Religion in Wendy Brown’s “Undoing the Demos”

Date:16 July 2015
Author:Religion Factor
The present crisis unfolding around Greece is, among many other things, a clash between political imaginaries. On the one hand, there is the vision of a democratic politics, represented (in a historical irony of sorts) by its presumed birthplace in Greece and the anti-austerity protesters taking to the streets of Athens. On the other, there is the depoliticized matrix of economic pragmatics, as represented by the Eurozone.

The struggle for justice of Dutch young Muslims in Syria

Date:06 January 2014
Author:S Klein Schaarsberg
“I am powerless. (…) Please do something. Do not forsake me and all the other mothers”. 18-year-old Robin converted to Islam one and a half years ago.

Travel Plans: Understanding Religion in Mali

Date:20 December 2013
Author:Christoph Grüll

Over the past few days, the planned UN peace mission to Mali has been covered in the news extensively. In this post Martijn van Loon analyzes the motivation for the Dutch government to participate in this mission, based upon the ‘artikel 100-brief’ discussed...

The Neoliberalization of Youth Peacebuilding

Date:12 December 2013
Author:Christoph Grüll

As part of our series on human rights for Human Rights Week, in today’s post Erik Meinemainvestigates how the neoliberal context in which NGOs and peacebuilding organizations operate influence their capacity to protect and promote human rights through contributing...

Humanities: down to business?

Date:05 July 2013
Author:Religion Factor

In this post, Elske Kroondijk and Erik Meinema consider the increasing influence of market discourses on academic practice, and reflect on the question how scholars and students in the Humanities can engage with this development. 

Authority and Religion in Myanmar

Date:04 April 2013

In today’s post, Arnout Couperus contributes to recent discussions on the democratisation of Myanmar. He argues that the role of Buddhism should not be underestimated in the analysis of the current situation.

Reflections on Pope Francis I

Date:24 March 2013

Following Pope Francis I’s celebration of his first Palm Sunday mass, commencing the most important week in the Catholic liturgy, we share a recent interview with Dr Mathilde van Dijk from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen...

Religious authority and new media culture

Date:13 March 2013

The internet holds great potential for communication and creativity within religious communities, but brings with it new challenges for religious authorities. This was the central theme of a guest lecture given by Dr. Heidi Campbell,  at the Faculty of Theology...

Securitizing Religious Violence: the Cases of Mali and Syria – Part Two

Date:11 March 2013

Suzanne Klein Schaarsberg  continues her exploration of the securitization of religion in the conflicts in Mali and Syria.

De groene daden van paus Benedictus XVI

Date:13 February 2013
Author:Maria Vliek
Paus Benedictus XVI is in veel kringen niet populair vanwege zijn conservatieve standpunten over bijvoorbeeld homoseksualiteit. Maar Benedictus werd ook wel de “groene paus” genoemd. Zowel in woord als daad deed hij verschillende groene dingen.

Islam and the Arab uprising

Date:07 January 2013
Author:Religion Factor
Guest contributor Prof Jeffrey Haynes from London Metropolitan University reflects on recent events in the Middle East and Northern Africa and their implications for how we understand the role of religion in public life.

On the Personal and the Political. Or, How to Retain a Sense of ‘Humanity’ in Egypt? Part 1

Date:08 December 2012
Author:Religion Factor
Dr Vivienne Matthies-Boon is currently in Cairo. In today’s post, she shares with us some of her experiences and reflections on the ongoing conflict between pro-democracy campaigners and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.