Declaration of Principles

As we are well in the 21st century, we witness great changes taking place and are gradually becoming integrated into the Greek society. The ever-growing secularization, the increasing cultural plurality, the case of young people, in particular, distancing themselves from the religious communities and traditions, the shift to a technocratic and utilitarian approach to education, as well as the emergence of fundamentalist tendencies are to name but a few. These changes raise serious concerns and bring us to the issue of reviewing the terms and conditions of Religious Education (RE) in Greece. As the existing legal education framework is to be reviewed by the State, it is imperative and more timely than ever to reflect on the nature, objectives and content of the course of Religion in Greek schools.

In addition, in the broader European environment, there is considerable concern and speculation on the fundamental ideals and objectives of a course that would be responding to the deepest anxieties and existential demands of young people, as well as to the ability of religions in general to operate in modern European societies as agents of social cohesion and interaction. In this approach, more and more of those engaged in educational theory and practice support the views that RE which inspires mutual respect can contribute effectively towards the establishment of a society that will exploit creatively every cultural and religious diversity, provided that it will not interfere with the right of every European citizen for unfettered self-determination.

With this in mind, we feel we must respond positively to the call of the times, to upgrade RE in Greece. We strongly believe that an upgraded course in Religion can indeed function as the foundation for the deepening and enrichment of democracy, the encouragement of the elimination of prejudices and stereotypes, fostering responsibility and inspiring love for the fellow men and creation.

RE can and must help so that students have the opportunity, the knowledge of infrastructure and mental freedom for an open-minded and constructive dialogue, which makes room for acceptance and respect for religious otherness, without interfering with their own ? religious or non religious ? identity.

The sensitive area of education needs a theology of open horizons that are ?dialectic with each other and honest with oneself?. Also, a theology which through the study of the history of religious phenomenon, has sources of the Orthodox tradition and intellectual heritage that in general differentiates but does not divide. A theology which not only allows the freedom of human conscience, but also sees it as a ?sacred center? of the human existence and a pillar of constitution for the foundation of our society. For this reason we support that RE remains mandatory for all students, regardless of religious or non-origin and identity of the belief that knowledge gives meaning to freedom.

Within this reflection on the RE in Greece, we do not disregard or underestimate all the positive interventions that have taken place in the last 30 years in an effort to eliminate catechism and improve the teaching approach of the basically one-sided course of RE. Nor, do we believe that the proposed alteration in the course of RE can ever be limited to a mere declaratory-ideological proposal, lightly ignoring the particularities and demands of the school reality.

In view of the reform of RE, we must use creatively those proposals occasionally made about the nature of the course of RE (Cultural, Biblical, Historical, etc.)  in a coordinated and orderly manner to present a resolution documented on teaching, and based on dynamic composition, between an outdated concept, which stubbornly defends a course of RE that is one-dimensional and obsolete, and another one of time and place, which specifically flattens with no discrimination  in the name of neutrality, the need for a third proposal appears within place and time, fruitful and composite. To put it more clearly, with an example, we could say that this works like diabetes: with one leg resting solidly on its own culture and the other one extending to the other dialectically, ?sketching? the conversation. This age and generation does not need a series of parallel monologues neither nor does it  seek a barrage of religious information. Times require a course of RE that could open a vital dialogue of ideas and cultures, defined with responsibility and scientific respect of the terms, conditions and criteria to guide this dialogue, away from barren conflicts and obsessions. More specifically, we should:

a. Explain explicitly and honestly to the Greek society the reasons why it is urgent and vital to have a common religious education for all students, regardless of their personal religious choices. Besides viewing the statistics, which record the religious and cultural ?variations? of classes, we need to highlight the implications and prospects on the very life and development of students, as well as specific problems and opportunities provided with this new school treaty proposal.

b. To seriously consider the desperate struggle of the youth facing existential and social impasses (loneliness, injustice, poverty, unemployment, ecological threats, etc.) and walk alongside with them witnessing hope. The course of RE has the privilege and the duty as well to set the foundations for the existence and offer a cohesive proposal for life, whether through the study, interpretation and promotion of universal and topical view of Orthodox theology and other Christian traditions or through the study and understanding of other religions and philosophical systems. This debt is particularly urgent today, a general decline of the humanities has become urgent in the name of a technocratic and utilitarian education, which may improve management capacity, but leaves critical thinking unprotected and susceptible to hazards and the overall existing  crisis.

c. To create a new and workable proposal for the course of RE, going beyond the current interpretative and managerial culture in education. After all, it is now commonly agreed upon that knowledge is not only a product of transfer, but it is discovered and produced by the student himself. Therefore, the school curriculum and the textbooks need to eliminate the logic of a limited and prefabricated knowledge. It also, should allow for a meaningful and dynamic interaction among the students, concerning the contents and the teacher, based on interpretation, critical thinking and debate. In this perspective, we should work out a new universal approach to knowledge and the related methodology, that the course of RE does not exhaust itself to ?information about? religions, but aims at ?learning from? religions, which this broadening the intellectual horizons of the student.

d. To move towards the creation of a workable framework for cooperation and interaction among the three levels of education.

e. To study the European religious & pedagogic developments and maintain a dialogue with our European colleagues. Beyond differences, there are undoubtedly similarities and proportions relevant to the common European demand for transformation and upgrading of RE.

f. To help create a framework for dialogue with all parties, whether involving institutions (Ministry of Education, Pedagogical Institute, political parties, Theological Schools, etc.) having a legal and legitimate concern about the RE (Executive churches, religious communities, Independent Authorities, Associations etc.), through conferences and seminars, a magazine and a website.

We trust that this step, that is necessary towards changing the RE, cannot and should not be without cooperation of teachers who handle daily requirements, as well as the shortcomings of the course of RE in public school. We think it is high time we contributed positively and processed to a debate on the necessary changes. But this can only take place calmly and collectively by the assistance of all of us. To this end, we proceed in establishing the ?KAIROS? Greek Theological Association for the improvement of the relegious education  and send an open invitation to all concerned to participate in it.