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Diocesan committee: Integration policy should focus on religion

Religion cannot be ignored as a factor in integration processes, says diocesan committee in Copenhagen. The picture is from Prayer for the Nation, a multicultural service that took place in 2015 in Helligåndskirken i Copenhagen

The Municipality of Copenhagen recently published a draft concerning the city’s integration policy 2019-2022. The text focuses on employment, education, leisure activities and health, yet does not mention religion with one word. That is what the Diocesan Church and Encounter with other Religions Committee in Copenhagen emphases in their hearing statement, stating that it is a problem that the municipality completely ignores religion as a factor in the integration processes.

“Reading the integration policy we are puzzled that there has been so little reflection about the significance of religion as a way to reaching the objectives,” the committee writes.

“It is necessary to accept the fact that many people, especially those with Muslim background, do not see themselves as accepted in a secularizing and secularized society. Far too many people in Muslim communities oppose freedom of religion and belief and consider mutual respect across religious divides a nuisance,” says the statement from the Committee. Instead, they propose that the Employment and Integration Committee should co-operate with religious networks in their integration work.

Writer Ahmad Mahmoud disagrees:

“Of course culture and religion influence integration. But we have to remember that we live in a secular society where religion should not dominate the public sphere,” says Mahmoud to the Christian Daily

Anton Pihl, member of the diocesan committee, thinks there is a good reason to focus on religion:

”You cannot on the one hand talk about such a thing as social control as a problem in integration and then on the other hand ignore religion. Many integration issues are obviously about religion. So it is important to create a qualified public debate about religion in stead of subduing it in an attempt to be religiously neutral,” Pihl says to the Christian Daily.   

The Mayor of Employment and Integration in Copenhagen, Cecilia Lonning-Skovgaard (Liberal Party) has not spoken about the case and will not comment the hearing statement until it has been presented to the politicians.  Copenhagen City Council will adopt the integration policy 2019-2022 in December 2018.