The European Union has launched a new “Global Exchange on Religion in Society” initiative, an exchange program for civil society agents working on faith and social inclusion.

Driving the news

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini launched the Exchange last Friday at a conference in Brussels with 150 representatives of civil society, governments and religious institutions.

By way of an introduction to the initiative, Mogherini told her audience that “people like you will have the chance to visit a relevant country for a short period of time, learn from the reality on the ground first and foremost, and also learn from peers coming to join you from all around the world”.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Vice-President of the European Commission compared the new initiative to the successful Erasmus exchange program, which each year gives tens of thousands of European students the chance to study abroad.


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Why it matters

“We live in a moment of the history of the world when coexistence and respect cannot be taken for granted any longer”, Mogherini warned.

The Italian politician said that “respect is the key to recognising differences without being afraid of them, and being open to accepting the others as he or she is”.

In the ordinary course of foreign policy, Mogherini lamented, “we always focus on problems”.

Hence this new look to the interreligious actors “that have already managed to solve the problems – maybe on a little scale, but there is a powerful hope there that can be a source of inspiration”.

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What’s next

“With this new initiative, we want to invest in the good stories”, Mogherini insisted.

“We want to acknowledge the positive role that religion is already playing in some parts of the world, of our societies. We want to recognise the solutions that are coming from the grassroots, and from the core of our communities”.

Agents working on faith and social inclusion are “the peace-builders”, the “change-makers”, the “bridge-builders” in our communities today, Mogherini said.

That’s the thinking, the politician added, behind this EU decision to “connect and empower” them.