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Living Religion in Northern Ireland:. Experiences of People of Faith Minorities in a Christian Majority Landscape. By Dr Gladys Ganiel. Part of the IRCHSS-funded research project To be completed over three years (2009-2011) Marks Centenary of 1910 Missionary Conference

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Living religion in northern ireland

Living Religion in Northern Ireland:

Experiences of People of Faith Minorities in a Christian Majority Landscape.

By Dr Gladys Ganiel

Living religion in northern ireland

Part of the IRCHSS-funded research project

To be completed over three years (2009-2011)

Marks Centenary of 1910 Missionary Conference

Surveys, sociological case studies, theological reflection

Tonight s talk
Tonight’s Talk

Focus on data related to ‘Faith Minorities’

Data from 2009 Surveys

Data from 2010 Case Study

Purpose of surveys
Purpose of Surveys

  • To audit religious diversity on the island

    • Ethnic diversity within Christian congregations/parishes; and ‘other’ religions

    • Perceptions of reconciliation (what is reconciliation & who should be reconciled?)

    • Perceptions of ecumenism (what is ecumenism & does it matter today?)

    • Perspectives of both faith leaders & laypeople

Surveys of faith leaders
Surveys of Faith Leaders

Clergy, Pastors, Ministers, Faith Leaders

  • More than 4,000 direct email or postal requests

  • April-July 2009

  • Response rate 18%

  • Evangelicals over-represented

  • Highest response rate among Methodist & Church of Ireland

Surveys of laypeople
Surveys of Laypeople

On-line Exploratory Survey

More than 900 respondents

April-July 2009 on

Atheists & evangelicals over-represented

Provide useful points of comparison for survey of faith leaders and provide directions for future research

Minority respondents
‘Minority’ respondents

  • Only 14 of 710 respondents on faith leaders survey

  • 9 from Republic, 5 from Northern Ireland

  • Response rate 24%

  • Baha’i, Buddhist, Hare Krishna, Hindu, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim

  • Nothing substantial can be claimed from this data, due to small sample size

    BUT …

Interesting findings
Interesting Findings

  • Leaders from Other Religions were most likely to say they had been provided with adequate training or resources for promoting reconciliation (89%)

  • Other Religions (89%) reported the most positive conceptions of ecumenism.

  • On ecumenism, Christians prioritized options including ‘Catholics and Protestants’

Lay minority respondents
‘Lay’ Minority Respondents

910 total respondents, 29 from Faith Minorities (23 from Republic, 4 from NI, 2 did not indicate location)

Includes Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Humanist, Jewish Orthodox, pagan, Soto Zen Buddhist, Tibetan Buddhist

Again, nothing substantial can be claimed from this data, due to small sample size


Interesting findings1
Interesting Findings

The laypeople who responded to our survey were more likely to indicate that good civic relations and dialogue with Other Religions is part of ecumenism, than were the faith leaders who responded

25% of laypeople on the island as a whole reported accessing resources on reconciliation between people of different religions

28% of laypeople on the island as a whole had accessed general resources on reconciliation (25% in the Republic and 38% in Northern Ireland). The most likely to have done so were people from Other Religions (47%) and Other Christians (38%).

Faith minorities case study 2010
Faith Minorities Case Study 2010

Context of seven other case studies

Fermanagh Churches Forum

Holy Cross Benedictine Monastery, Co. Down

Sli Eile (Jesuit youth organisation)

Abundant Life Assemblies of God church, Limerick

St Patrick’s United Church, Waterford

Jesus Centre, Dublin

Ballyboden Catholic lay parish council, Dublin

Faith minorities case study 20101
Faith Minorities Case Study (2010)

Our purpose?

To provide in-depth perspectives on what it is like to live as a member of a faith minority community on this island

Interviewees are not ‘representative’

Semi-structured interviews provide room for depth and more nuanced understanding

Participants sourced through ISE contacts and 2009 surveys

Committing to a new faith
Committing to a new faith

Irish or Northern Irish born interviewees

Dissatisfaction or disappointment with previous religion

But always several factors

Experiences of acceptance
Experiences of Acceptance

With family

With society around them

I can easily say this is one of the relaxed and good countries, where you can live your faith and don’t have any problem. … As long as you don’t go to very sensitive areas of the country where nationalism is very high.

- Afandee, Turkish Muslim in N. Ireland

Experiences of rejection prejudice lack of recognition
Experiences of Rejection/Prejudice & Lack of Recognition

  • Present in all narratives

  • In social interactions

  • In public policies, politics, educational system, etc.

Meaning practice of everyday religion
Meaning & Practice of ‘Everyday’ Religion

Prayer, meditation, social work – religions give meaning to people’s everyday lives

All say their religions are not about converting others

Many emphasise that their religions are non-violent


All say ‘other religions’ should be included

This may be related to desire for recognition or acknowledgement

But, one had not heard of ecumenism, two were unsure, and another had checked its meaning in the dictionary

Is ecumenism the same as inter faith dialogue?

Points to ponder

Points to Ponder

Acceptance is hard to come by

Ordinariness of everyday religious life

When little recognition, who should reach out?

Relationship between inter-faith dialogue & ecumenism