Being a Religious Leader in Norwegian Society
In 2007, the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oslo introduced a new program for continuing education for religious leaders with a foreign background, under the title of ”Being a Religious Leader in Norwegian Society”. The background of the project was a parliamentarian decision to offer a more thorough “knowledge of society” to religious leaders who have immigrated to Norway. With reference to The Faculty of Theology’s competence in the field of interreligious studies, the Faculty was given the task (by the then Ministry of Labor and Inclusion) to implement the project.
Since the underlying political decision could easily be taken as a politically disciplining measure, our faculty took pains to involve faith communities directly in the planning process. Thus representatives of the Islamic Council, the Buddhist Association, the Baptist Association, the Roman Catholic Church, and The Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities were invited to join the faculty staff in laying out the details in the program. The same religious communities were also granted quotas and asked to nominate candidates for the first round of the program. These procedures clearly helped in giving the faith communities a strong sense of ownership to the program. As an evaluation report from 2011 indicates, the course has also communicated well with the religious leaders’ personal motivation to develop their professional identity in a multireligious setting.
In concrete terms, the program consists of three modules. The headings of the three modules are as follows:
- “Religion, Norwegian Legislation and International Human Rights”
- “Values, Dialogue and Religious Leadership” and
- “Moral and Religious Counseling”.
For those who would like to include the program in their academic career, the modules can give 10 ECTS credits each upon succesful accomplishing the academic requirements.
The most numerous groups among the participants have been Muslim leaders (imams and other categories of leadership, including those of women) and Christian clergy of different denominations. Some Buddhist monks, Hindu and Sikh leaders and a Jewish rabbi have also taken part. The participants’ evaluations have been good, and for a large part enthusiastic.
The program completed its fifth round in 2016 with, as in the preceding rounds, around 20 participants. A sixth round is planned to begin in 2017. Hopefully, it will be possible to offer a program of this kind on a permanent basis.
Professor of Interreligious Studies
Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo