‘Our Father’ – In or Out?
Religious Education and Secular Tendencies in Croatian Public Schools in the European Context
Keywords:Our Father, religion, law, international treaties, religious education, public schools, values, Croatia, Europe, seculiarism, Catholic Church, religious community
This study discusses religious education in Croatian and European schools, within the overall context of religious symbols in public life. Europe is a vibrant and non-homogenous continent that comprises many cultures and traditions based mostly on Roman law. Various legal cultures and value systems have developed in Europe, which differ due to developmental variations within the European continental system. Religious education is offered in most European countries in various forms. Only three European countries, Albania, Slovenia, and (to some extent) France do not allow religious teaching in public schools. For instance, the crucifix is a part of faith and folklore in Italy, religious celebrations during Christmas, St. Nicholas Day, and Days of the Bread are part of the religious tradition in Croatia (forcibly) broken during the socialist Yugoslavia era, and crosses are present on the national flags of many nations, although their citizens might have forgotten why. Praying and mentioning God, and singing, do not harm anyone but, rather, can serve as a call for friendship, mutual understanding, and peace. It would be useful to create a legal document (e.g. a by-law) that established standards for such public behaviour in schools, which could be followed on a voluntary basis by students, including non-religious children. The Croatian State should organise alternative courses for children who do not follow religious education in order to diminish differences and prevent dissatisfaction and feelings of isolation. Also, education experts should consider the principles of Christian ethics, which secure respect for every citizen. Croatian history and legal traditions as well as International treaties between the Holy See and Croatia secure a place for ‘Our Father’ and other religious appearances in Croatian public schools. Prayer as well as religious folklore is an important part of religious education and thus an important part of regular curricula. It could be used to build respect for everyone within the Croatian community.