Human rights education as a frame for transmitting religion as cultural heritage: Part of a symposium: Human rights as aim or frame in RE

Eva Lindhardt, Lakshmi Sigurdsson, Kirsten Andersen, Annuleena Kimanen

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalPaperResearchpeer-review


Human Rights as aim or frame in RE?
Freedom of religion, agency, and didactics in the cross-roads between RE and Human Rights

The focus of this symposium will be dilemmas and didactics in the cross-roads between Human Rights Education (HRE) and RE in Finland and Denmark. As HRE includes ethics, moral education, and critical thinking, and RE includes consideration of freedom, responsibility, agency, power, and privilege, we see a need for didactic research and methodological experiments in these overlapping fields.
The symposium includes three interconnected presentations that will set the frame for further discussion.
1. How can the child’s right to freedom of religion and belief be safeguarded when majority religion is transmitted as cultural heritage? (Eva Lindhardt)
RE in Danish primary and secondary schools is non-confessional, albeit there is an ongoing discussion about the Church of Denmark’s privileged position in the subject. Allocating the majority religion quantitatively more space in the curriculum might be justified by the historical significance of this tradition. However, it does not justify a qualitative different approach than to other religions. This presentation argues that principles from HRE could provide a basis for a more pluralistic, objective, and critical approach to RE, thus enabling the classroom to function as a community of disagreement.
2. Agency in RE as religious freedom and orientation to social action (Anuleena Kimanen)
In Finland, RE is taught in denomination-specific groups but without the intention to increase pupils’ religiosity. This is expressed in the curriculum by stressing general knowledge thus constructing a position of educated observer to the pupils. Using the concept of agency, in a sense of ability to act according to one’s own choices, however, would offer the pupils a genuine freedom of religion as it would leave room for both religious commitment and non-commitment. Moreover, different connotations of agency provide further applications for the term in the RE curriculum, useful also from the HRE point of view. For instance, critical agency, understood as sense of one’s capability and responsibility to act toward and with others is vital for equipping the pupils to foster human rights in the society.
3. How can didactic methodologies based on philosophical reflection, critical thinking, and structured dialogue qualify teacher students to address paradoxes and dilemmas in HRE, as well as in the interplay between HRE and RE? (Kirsten M Andersen & Lakshmi Sigurdsson)
Student teachers must learn to address the complex and demanding political and ethical dilemmas which can either enable or undermine democratic struggles for rights. Combining Dietrich Benner’s non-affirmative theory of formation and the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt we introduce a didactic methodology based on Arendt’s interpretation of thinking. We argue that a concept-oriented approach, focussing on core concepts (such as freedom, conscience, equality, responsibility) can stimulate learners to reflect on the multiple, equivocal, and historically contingent trajectories of human rights and qualify teachers to address dilemmas in the cross-roads between HRE and RE.

Translated title of the contributionUndervisning i menneskerettigheder som ramme for fomidling af religion som kulturarv
Original languageEnglish
Publication date15 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2022
EventNCRE Nordic Conference on Religious Education: "RE IN THE CROSSROADS?!" - Latvia University, Riga, Latvia
Duration: 14 Jun 202218 Jun 2022
Conference number: 2022


ConferenceNCRE Nordic Conference on Religious Education
LocationLatvia University
Internet address


  • learning, educational science and teaching

Cite this