Facing the Other
Religious and Community Leaders’ Negotiations of Religious Difference in Hobart, Tasmania
Keywords:religious diversity, multiculturalism, deep equality, social cohesion, value consensus, Hobart
This article examines religious and community leaders’ perceptions of diversity and the ways in which they, and their communities, negotiate difference. Hobart, in Tasmania, Australia, is experiencing growing religious and ethnic diversity that is posing challenges for existing faith communities. The data consists of twelve in-depth interviews with Hobart’s religious leaders in which participants described two modes of negotiating difference: seeking sameness and agreeing to disagree. These modes of negotiation are positive examples of Lori Beaman’s (2014) understanding of agonistic respect in processes of “deep equality”. Growing diversity is, however, causing tensions for some communities, most notably conservative Christians in this study, who perceived growing hostility towards Christianity from secular society. Social issues, including marriage equality, have heightened tensions between conservative Christians and anti-religious Nones (Not Religious). I argue that social cohesion is reliant upon a commitment to liberal democratic values. This commitment provides the capacity for individuals to live with sometimes confronting difference that in turn underlies the celebration of diversity and difference in multiculturalism and pluralism.
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