In the documentary “Decision Makers meet ReIReS”, we asked six policy makers, concerned with the issue of religious diversity and religious identities, to share their experiences and expectations with us. Two of the speakers are women, four are men. The panel includes two diplomats (DeMichele, Douma), two elected officials (Debbaets, Delpeuch), two deputy ministers (Klein, Angelieva). For three of them, the experience in the field is primarily linked to the management of religious plurality (Debbaets, Klein, Douma); for the other three, the religious question is a secondary issue in their commitment. It arises in the context of the management of a local or regional community (Delpeuch), of research policy (Angelieva) or of diplomacy (DeMichele).
The assessments made by the six actors lead to a series of provisional conclusions, which seem to us to validate the process followed by ReIReS:
- All the speakers underlined the growing importance of the religious question within European societies, the need to educate citizens about these issues and the need for a scientific expertise for the actors of political life.
- Although several of them (Debbaets, Douma, Angelieva) emphasise inter-religious dialogue and the learning of tolerance, it is the question of strengthening Democracy that comes to the forefront of everyone’s concerns, in the context of pluralistic and multicultural societies, crossed by multiple conflicts and by the renewal of the challenges of collective identity.
- Secularisation is not uniform from one country to another. But it never eliminates the religious issue. This religious issue appears as a historical heritage which continues to play a social role (Delpeuch); as a springboard for citizen commitment, often unspoken, but which remains essential for part of the European and world population (DeMichele); as a possible element of social cohesion, provided that it is thought of in a pluralist and inclusive way (Douma).
- Political actors demand expertise that is also an aid to decision-making: “not only keys to understanding, but keys to device policies” (DeMichele).
- The demand for expertise is a demand for the sharing of expertise, between researchers and political actors. Researchers are seen as interlocutors able to be both competent and objective, capable of going beyond denominational divisions thanks to history, anthropology, law, sociology, etc. The international and comparative dimension is considered fundamental: European policy cannot be made without taking into account the place of religious facts in the globalisation process.
This experience sharing confirms the validity of the approach implemented by ReIReS. It is necessary to create a specific place for the meeting between policy makers and researchers in religious sciences. This place could take the form of a working group, meeting regularly (once or twice a year) around a defined theme. Composed of policy-makers and researchers, it would be primarily a place to exchange experiences and expertise. The RESILIENCE programme could be the basis for this over the next few years.
 Interviews of Bianca Debaets, member of the Parliament of Brussels; Dr. Felix Klein, Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism ; Jean-Luc Delpeuch, President of the Community of communes of Cluny (France) ; Karina Angelieva, deputy Minister in charge of the research policy in the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science; Jos Douma, Special Envoy for Religion and Belief at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands; Lucio DeMichele, Head of the Policy Planning Unit at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Watch the videos here.