International Conference

"Public Theology - Religion - Education. Interreligious Perspectives"

3 - 6 October 2016


Conducted by the Chair of Religious Education at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, GERMANY (Professor Manfred L. Pirner, Professor Johannes Lähnemann & Dr. Werner Haußmann)

together with Professor Peter Bubmann (Practical Theology, Erlangen), Dr. Florian Höhne (Fürth), Professor Andreas Nehring (Religious Studies, Erlangen), Professor Thomas Wabel (Systematic Theology und Dietrich-Bonhoeffer Research Center of Public Theology, University of Bamberg) and Professor Henrik Simojoki (Protestant Theology/Religous Education, University of Bamberg)

in cooperation with the Global Network of Public Theology (chaired by Professor Elaine Graham, Practical Theology, University of Chester), see: GNPT-Website


Since the turn of the millennium, the awareness in liberal democratic societies has grown that religion cannot simply be regarded as a private matter, but that it has an indispensable public dimension. Unfortunately, the religious context of terrorism and of violent conflicts have more strongly reinforced this awareness than the many positive, constructive contributions by religions to the common good. There is also an increasing appreciation, however, of how much liberal democratic societies gain from the political and social engagement of NGOs, institutions, groups and individuals – among which religious groups and religiously inspired people play an important role.

In general, the contributions by religions to the common good imply an educational aspect: They function to stimulate processes of perception and thinking that uncover new perspectives and help to discover new opportunities for action. Thus, on the one hand, education is an integral part of the public dimension of religion, and on the other, it is the realm of public education that constitutes an important subject of social debate to which religions can make substantial contributions. 

In the Christian context, the calling to contribute to the common good has come to be discussed under the label of “public theology”, and has led to the establishment of a “Global Network of Public Theology” (2007). In this discussion, the educational aspect has repeatedly been mentioned, but has remained marginal up to now. Other religions have their own traditions and perspectives, from which responsibility for society is motivated and reflected. Judaism, for instance, has significantly influenced public culture, especially in Europe, and it keeps sensitizing the public to problematic developments in society. For representatives of Islam in liberal democratic societies it becomes more and more important not just to show that Islam is compatible with democratic values, but to show that Islamic perspectives can contribute to the common good. In Buddhism, since the middle of the 20th century, the movement of “engaged Buddhism” has developed, in which meditative spirituality is combined with active social and ecological commitment. And in the Bahá’ís community social and non-partisan political commitment has always been fundamental. It is obvious that all these religions, and others, have an important public and educational function in society that provides resources for the realisation of liberal, democratic values.

Thus, the conference intends to draw attention to the contribution of religions to the common good, with a focus on educational aspects and stimulated by the Christian concept of 'public theology'. By promoting interdisciplinary and interreligious academic and social discourse it aims to strengthen the religions’ public responsibility, especially with respect to public education, and their public visibility as resources for the humanization of societies. The conference is organized by the Chair of Religious Education at the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Professor Manfred L. Pirner, Professor Johannes Lähnemann, and Dr. Werner Haußmann) together with Professor Peter Bubmann (Practical Theology, Erlangen), Dr Florian Höhne (Systematic Theology, Fürth), Professor Andreas Nehring (Religious Studies, Erlangen), Professor Henrik Simojoki (Protestant Theology/Religious Education, University of Bamberg) and Professor Thomas Wabel (Systematic Theology and director of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Research Center of Public Theology, University of Bamberg), and in co-operation with the Global Network of Public Theology, GNPT (chairperson: Professor Elaine Graham, University of Chester, UK).