The IRENE project for the development of religious education was launched in December 2020, in the wake of the pandemic. The project is part of the EU’s Erasmus+ program. The name of the project network, IRENE, is an abbreviation of its English project description “Innovative Religious Education Network: educating to the religious diversity.”
Among the goals, there have been to facilitate the exchange of experiences, transfer of knowledge and innovative methods in religious education, increase digital, social, and multicultural skills of participants, and create strategic partnerships and real cooperation among the partners of the project.
The project is led by the NGO Asociatia Vasiliada from Craiova, Romania. Other partners include the University of Eastern Finland, the Istituto di Studi Ecumenici San Bernardino della Provincia Sant’Antonio dei Frati Minori in Venice, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Fondatsiya za Regionalno Razvitie in Sofia, Bulgaria, and the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Institute of Tallinn.
The IRENE project is aimed at religious education teachers, theologians, and clergy. It does not focus solely on the development of school education. According to the participating countries, the project will focus on the study and development of religious education and upbringing in both the school and ecclesial contexts.
As a result of the project, several teaching and training materials have been produced online in the language of each country and have been used to compile, for example, a Training Guide (https://irene-project.isevenezia.it/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Training-Guide.pdf). Finnish and Estonian partners carried out a comparative study on the implementation of religious education in the partner countries (https://irene-project.isevenezia.it/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/IO1-IRENE-Comparative-Study-FINAL.pdf). There are also several videos dealing with religious education in partner countries, religious diversity and multiculturism topics, and pedagogical issues (https://irene-project.isevenezia.it/en/materiale-comune/ ). The project will end in April 2023. At the University of Eastern Finland, the project has been coordinated by Risto Aikonen, lecturer in the pedagogy of Orthodox religion at the Department of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education, who is a member of the EFTRE board. – RA.