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Invitation to seminar on Exploring the role of religion in the Danish asylum system

Invitation to seminar on Exploring the role of religion in the Danish asylum system

What is – and should be – the role of religion in the asylum system?


17.01.2017 kl. 12.00 - 16.00


What is – and should be – the role of religion in the asylum system? Religious persecution is of course a foundational basis for refugee protection. But among politicians, asylum authorities, and in the general public debates have often turned on the practice of religion in asylum centers and the question of religious conversion. Religious discrimination and proselytization in Danish asylum centers have prompted calls for ‘religious neutrality’ in those spaces. At the same time, asylum seekers who convert are often suspected of doing so solely to further their chances of asylum. Reflecting a secularist bias, such debates often cast religion as something potentially problematic to be controlled and managed, leaving little room for more open, nuanced inquiries of the – negative as well as positive – roles of religion in the asylum system. With this seminar, we hope to initiate a broader conversation on religion in the asylum system, exploring some of the legal, political, social and cultural roles that religion plays in this system. Focusing especially on the asylum-seeking process and the asylum centers, the seminar will raise and discuss questions such as: - How does the asylum system deal with asylum claims based on religious persecution? How is the sincerity of conversion claims tested? What are the underlying conceptions of ‘religion’ and ‘conversion’? How do converts experience these processes? - How is religion practiced in the asylum centres in Denmark? What rights do asylum seekers have to practice their religion? What restrictions can be – and are being – imposed on these practices and for what reasons? How is ‘religious neutrality’ conceived and implemented? We bring together a diverse group of experts, including academics as well as practitioners, approaching these questions from legal, anthropological, sociological and policy perspectives.


12:00-12:10 Welcome Steffen Jensen, Aalborg University Marie Juul Petersen, Danish Institute for Human Rights 
12:10-12:45 Refugees and religion: An introduction Erin Wilson, University of Groeningen 
12:45-14:00 Religion in the asylum-seeking process Helge Årsheim, University of Oslo Søren Dalsgaard, Folkekirkens Asylsamarbejde Pia Nielsen, University of Aalborg 
14:00-14:15 Coffee break
14:15-15:30 Religion in the asylum centers Eva Maria Lassen, Danish Institute for Human Rights Zachary Whyte, Aalborg University, Danish Red Cross
15:30-16:00 Summing up and discussion of ways forward The seminar is free and open to all.

Sandwiches will be served at the beginning of the seminar.

The seminar is open to all students and employees at Aalborg University.


Aalborg University and the Danish Institute for Human Rights


Room 0.06 in building B (Frederikskaj 12)

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09.01.2017 kl. 12.00

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