Cultural diversity is nothing new in European societies. Nonetheless, a combination of sociological developments and increased awareness of the need to respect difference have radically changed both the context and the way that religious, linguistic and sociological differences are perceived.

The new context presents a challenge with regard to the way that we learn history. The task is to reflect the multiperspectivity and pluralism of historical perception and memory within a given society in the practice of history teaching, while avoiding a high degree of polarisation between particular differences and specificities.

In multicultural and democratic societies, history teaching could thus help to demonstrate that, far from there being a conflict between, on the one hand, people freely consenting to building a shared future and, on the other, ensuring that the histories of different groups are recognised, respected and generally made known, the one actually depends upon the other.

Clearly, many factors can constitute a basis for difference, for particular perceptions and thus for discrimination. In the current context it may be useful to look in particular at the two aspects described below.

History teaching and images associated with different religions or world views

The Warsaw Action Plan, the Faro Declaration and the recent Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation on education and religion (Recommendation 1720 (2005)) have all stressed the need for what the Action Plan (in paragraph III, 6) called "intercultural and inter-faith dialogue, based on universal human rights, as a means of promoting awareness, understanding, reconciliation and tolerance, as well as preventing conflicts and ensuring integration and the cohesion of society".

Approaching the different images from a historical perspective, with particular emphasis on the ways in which they have influenced one another positively, is critically important for a clear understanding of contemporary situations.

A particular, though not exclusive, focus of attention should be the history of interaction between the different European cultures and religious traditions and the Muslim world, and the contemporary consequences of that interaction.

Pluralism of origins and memory

The diversity of origins – European and non-European – and the plurality of memory found among the social groups that give European societies their cultural diversity extend beyond the religious dimension (while not necessarily excluding it) and are based on a range of factors including geographical and ethnic origin, historical events of special significance to particular groups, and lifestyle.

A specific function of the project will be to identify means whereby the practice of history teaching can reconcile shared (or supposedly shared) history with the particular histories of the social groups that comprise a multicultural society.

Activities related to "Multiple images, shared destinies? – Learning about history in a multicultural society"