EXPLORING SACRED SPACE IN DIVIDED SOCIETIES: CAPE TOWN AND HAMBURG

Gordon Mitchell

Abstract


Peace-building and religious dialogue projects are increasingly experimenting with
intercultural encounters in places such as mosques, churches or synagogues. It is
assumed that such places have particular value for at least one of the parties and it
is therefore anticipated that mutual visits will foster understanding and respect. It is
customary to assume that first-hand exposure to other religions in the form of visits
to mosques or churches, is an important means of developing cognitive as well as
affective inter-religious competence. Opportunities to experience awe then become
the task of Religious Education. Common to much of the literature on the subject is
an almost essentialistic understanding of sacred space, which invests particular
buildings with meaning. This article argues that what happens during such visits is
even more complex. Space is sacred because people invest in it with meaning and
this can happen in ways which are both fluid and fraught with inner contradiction.
Encountering that space can therefore have a range of unanticipated consequences.
Two initiatives where school pupils are encouraged to explore sacred space, one in
Cape Town and one in Hamburg, will form the basis of this analysis.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/89-0-1021

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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