International Association for the History of Religions Executive Committee statement concerning Russian war against Ukraine

In the wake of renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine we express our solidarity with the suffering Ukrainian people and our academic colleagues – scholars of the study of religions, who instead of conducting research and teaching students have to seek a safe haven against the bombing of their homes and cities. The scale and brutality of the military aggression unleashed by the Russian state against its peaceful neighbour demands that we take a stance and act without delay. In strong solidarity with the suffering Ukrainian nation we recommend that all member associations of the International Association of the History of Religions:

a) terminate all cooperation with academic institutions and scholarly associations working in the study of religions area that have links to the Russian state or receive any form of Russian state funding or recognition;

b) allow Russian scholars to participate in the international and regional scientific events linked with IAHR only as independent scholars not representing any Russian state research and/or study institution;

c) allow Russian scholars to publish their research results in the academic journals linked with IAHR and its member associations only as independent scholars not representing any Russian state research and/or study institution;

d) refrain from publishing in academic journals funded by Russian state institutions.

These recommendations should come into effect immediately after the dissemination of this statement and will apply until further notice.

We also urge all IAHR national associations to discuss how their members can contribute to helping the Ukrainian state and its people at this time by sharing employment and refugee information with Ukrainian colleagues as well as considering possibilities to arrange political support for Ukraine by approaching national governments and regional organisations.

February 27, 2022

The position of the board of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions regarding refusal to grant a status of state recognized religious association to Romuva

To the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda
To the Speaker of the Seimas, Viktoras Pranckietis
To members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania
To the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, Saulius Skvernelis
To the Minister of Justice, Elvinas Jankevičius

27 September 2019

In response to the decision of the Seimas (Parliament) of the Republic of Lithuania to not grant the status of state recognized religious association to the Religious Association of Ancient Balts Romuva (hereafter Romuva) on 27 June 2019, the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions hereby expresses its grave concerns regarding compliance of this decision to the main principles of the rule of law and democracy and the upholding of human rights, as well as the implementation of the principle of separation of state and religion.

On 29 December 2017, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania prepared a conclusion stating that Romuva met the requirements for religious associations seeking a state recognition according to the Law on Religious Communities and Associations of the Republic of Lithuania (4 October 1995, No. I-1057; the consolidated version in force since 5 January 2010). The conclusion provided by the Ministry of Justice was based on an analysis of the requirements of relevant laws, academic research on Romuva and modern paganism in general, and the results of a representative survey of public opinion commissioned by the Ministry of Justice. However, in defiance of opinions expressed by qualified academic researchers in religious studies, scholars working in relevant fields and other specialists, a decision unfavourable to the association was made in the Seimas.

Recognizing that that there is a legitimate state interest in citizens of various worldviews being allowed to fully participate in public life and the decision making that informs it, events before and during the debates on the issue of granting state recognition to Romuva clearly reveal that the decision of members of the Seimas contradicted important legal principles of Lithuania and showed fundamental disrespect for human rights in Lithuania. Paradoxically, the greatest opposition to a positive decision regarding granting the status of a state recognized religious association to Romuva was shown by former and present members of the Committee of Human Rights of the Seimas. The United Nations encourages application of a complex concept of human rights, but the decision suggests that an understanding that the right to religious freedom belongs to the privileged few only is coming back in Lithuania. There seems good reason to be concerned that the decision of the Seimas discriminates against Romuva as religious association and against its members as Lithuanian citizens exercising their rights, and that to a large degree, this is a result of the actions of various social groups that provided highly biased arguments against Romuva that may have used seemingly academic and legal terminology but were not based in actual religious studies scholarship.

One particular document that seems to have had a significant impact on the Seimas decision that discriminates against Romuva was an email of the president of the Lithuanian Bishops’ conference, archbishop Gintaras Grušas, sent on 27 June 2019 to members of the Seimas. The email provided professedly academic and legal arguments backing refusal to make a decision favourable to Romuva. After familiarization with the text, we as researchers of religion note the following points in relation to certain specific points of the archbishop’s text:

  1. The choice of name for a religious association is a matter of decision for the religious association and is not open to challenge by others. A name does not necessarily refer to facts only, it can likewise designate aspirations. Romuva is understood by its members as a revived form of ancient, ancestral religion (the faith of the “Balts” in the broader sense), and in this regard its name is clear and not misleading both in its legal and general meanings. In addition, it should be noted that Romuva’s explicit aspiration to recreate the faith of the ancient Balts is irrelevant in regard of granting of a status of a state recognized religious association. According to the Law on Religious Communities and Associations, the state recognizes not historical religions, but religions enjoying backing by society and having instruction and rites that are not contrary to laws and morality.
  2. In his letter, the archbishop claims that the religious association Romuva has not existed in Lithuania for the period of 25 years required by the law. This argument is not warranted, because before adoption of the law in 1995 there was no legal concept of a religious association in Lithuania at all. However, the law established that the state can recognize religious associations that legally operated after 1918. It should be also noted that the Vilnius Romuva community which was registered in 1992 was one of the founding members of the Religious Association of the Ancient Balts Romuva and today remains part of this association. Thus, the requirement of the period of 25 years established in the law has been completely met.
  3. Archbishop Grušas makes unfounded claims that it is impossible to assess whether the instruction and rites of the Romuva association are not contrary to laws and public morality because the faith of Romuva is underdeveloped in respect of its doctrine. The main principles of the faith of Romuva are set out in the statutes of the religious association, and the Romuva faith has been practiced in public for more than one decade. Thus, the state has had more than enough time to establish the relationship of instruction and rites of this faith with the law and universally accepted moral norms, completely independent of Romuva not having at this point a thoroughly developed comprehensive theology. Grušas’ reasoning could be seen as an instance of an attempt to establish the structure of one religion as a norm and to impose it as a standard to be used in assessing other religions.
  4. It is not clear, how archbishop Grušas would like to measure backing by society for specific religious associations. He refers to “wider research” that he does not specify. In public opinion surveys, Jewish and Muslim communities that are considered “traditional” in Lithuania are assessed manifestly more negative terms than is Romuva. Furthermore, these religious communities (Karaites can be included among them in this respect) are also smaller by their membership. If Romuva is not considered to be sufficiently supported by Lithuanian society, a question can be raised: which of the currently state recognized religious associations actually has this backing?

We regret such unfounded arguments were provided to members of the Seimas on the same day when they had to make a decision regarding recognition of Romuva. It would seem that providing these arguments in this way was an effort to exert influence by the authority of the Catholic Church and to avoid any realistic possibility of careful discussion and proper assessment of the content of these arguments.

Similar arguments were set forth in a letter dated 28 June 2019, signed by a general secretary of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference, priest Kęstutis Smilgevičius and addressed to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania. The document questions the conclusion of the Ministry of Justice supporting recognition claiming it is non-scholarly, biased and partial. In the opinion of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions, which has among its members eminent scholars involved in serious research on contemporary religiosity in general and on contemporary paganism and Romuva in particular, the nature of the text from the Ministry of Justice does not allow discussion of many issues related to terminology and its interpretations, but the data and arguments provided correspond with contemporary academic understanding of this religious community. Furthermore, the conclusion certainly cannot be described as partial or apologetic: for example, contrary to beliefs of many members of Romuva, the document describes it as a new religious movement that developed in the modern times.

Members of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions are surprised by the tone of the mentioned letter, in which the authors claim to appeal to academic objectivity, but in fact are only applying this as a veil to conceal and justify the effort of one religious group to use its powerful position to assert a seemingly “scholarly,” but in fact highly biased assessment of the conclusion prepared by the experts of the Ministry of Justice. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Lithuanian Bishops’ conference did not seek advice of any of scholars belonging to the Society regarding the assessment of a status of Romuva; this text was prepared by members of the Catholic Church exclusively. The letter ignores concepts of religiosity dominating in the academic community and arguments based on academic research, and instead invokes concepts and ideas based on exclusively Christian perspective, in this way incorrectly applying legal principles, preventing use of legitimate rights established in law, distributing conspiracy theories and inciting intolerance and tension in the society. This raises the greatest concern of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions as a scholarly organization dedicated to uniting Lithuanian and foreign academics working in various fields.

Refusal to grant state recognition to the Religious Association of Ancient Balts Romuva is important not only as a case of violation of the human rights of the members of a specific religious community. It also is a basis for growth of distrust of citizens in legal principles of the state, as well as damaging citizens’ confidence in the fulfilment of legitimate expectations and respect of human rights based on these principles. Therefore, we recommend:

  1. to judge religions from the scholarly rather than the confessional perspective and to adhere to principles of objectivity and impartiality;
  2. to adhere to principles of the rule of law and democracy, respect for human rights and separation of state and religion and to take into account conclusions provided by experts when making decisions related to religious associations and communities;
  3. to assess if the period of 25 years currently applied to an association seeking the status of state recognized religious community under the Law on Religious Communities and Associations is optimal or even necessary in order to establish whether the instruction and rites of a particular religious community are not contrary to laws and morality. From the academic perspective, it seems possible to do this in a shorter period.

Members of the board of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions:
assoc. prof. dr. Rasa Pranskevičiūtė-Amoson
dr. Eglė Aleknaitė
prof. dr. Milda Ališauskienė
prof. hab. dr. (hp) Audrius Beinorius
assoc. prof. dr. Aušrelė Pažėraitė

Religion(s) and Power(s) Conference Abstracts and Programme now available

You can find the programme and the book of abstracts of the upcoming international conference  of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of
Religions “Religion(s) and Power(s)” below. The conference is co-organized by the Estonian Society for the Study of Religions, the Latvian Society for the Study of Religion. The Conference has been financially supported by the Research Council of Lithuania.

The conference will be held on October 5-6, 2017 at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Putvinskio str. 23.

A poster for the conference is also available for download below:

Call for papers published for the LSSR conference of 2017

Religion(s) and Power(s)

Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania
October 5-6, 2017

The Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions in cooperation with Latvian Society for the Study of Religions and Estonian Society for the Study of Religions invites proposals for its upcoming international conference “Religion(s) and Power(s)”. To encourage new directions in the critical research of interrelations of religion(s) and power(s) from a broad range of approaches, we are seeking proposals on a wide range of topics including:

  • Private and public religions;
  • Religions and politics;
  • Non-religion and power;
  • Religious inequalities and discrimination;
  • Religions, human rights and justice;
  • Powers of/within religions;
  • Religion and nationalism;
  • Mythology, divine kinship and power;
  • Religion and colonialism;
  • Religions and education.

Other topics related to the conference theme are also encouraged.

Conference paper and session proposals must be sent by June 15, 2017. Please send your 250-300 word abstract and a 200-word personal bio to email: religiousstudieslt@gmail.com

Important conference dates:

  • June 15, 2017 – submission of conference papers and sessions proposals;
  • July 15, 2017 – notification of paper/session proposal acceptance;
  • July 15, 2017 – opening of registration for the conference;
  • August 15, 2017 – closing of registration for the conference;
  • September 1, 2017 – announcement of the conference program.

Conference Registration Fees:

  • Members of national associations of Baltic States associations for the study of religions – 30 EUR;
  • Permanent/full-time faculty and non-affiliated participants – 80 EUR;
  • Graduate students and emeritus faculty – 50 EUR;
  • Late bird conference fee – 100 EUR.

Program of the 3rd International Scientific Conference of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions is announced

Download Conference Poster | Download the Final Conference Program

3rd International Scientific Conference of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions
LIFE HERE AND HEREAFTER: BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

October 23-24, 2015
Vilnius, Lithuania

with Vilnius University and Vytautas Magnus University

Click to download poster as a PDF

Download Conference Poster | Download the Final Conference Program

Videos of prof. Eileen Barker lectures – on the VMU website

On May 2-3, 2012 the Department of Sociology was visited by Dr. Eileen Barker, who is professor emeritus at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Eileen Barker delivered two lectures: “Brainwashing, mind control, recruitment or conversion? The questions about influence and/or coersion in “cults”” and “Sociological research methods”. Below you will find the video recordings of those lectures.

Lecture “Brainwashing, mind control, recruitment or conversion? The questions about influence and/or coersion in “cults””:

http://www.tvdu.lt/video.php?embed_id=68&embed_ext=1

Lecture “Sociological research methods”:

http://www.tvdu.lt/video.php?embed_id=82&embed_ext=1

The lectures can also be viewed at the website of Vytautas Magnus University dedicated to video news and lectures: http://tvdu.lt/tags/barker.

3rd International scientific conference of LSSR announced

2015-konferencijos-organizatoriai

3rd International Scientific Conference of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions
LIFE HERE AND HEREAFTER: BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

Vilnius, Lithuania
23-24 October, 2015

with Vilnius University and Vytautas Magnus University

Call for Papers

Life here and hereafter is considered to be one of the core concerns of an individual throughout the history of humanity. Quest for the meaning of life, role of death, possibilities of life after death are challenged with a broad scope of perceptions, reflections and expressions among various spiritual and religious traditions, emerging spiritualities, groups and individuals.

This conference addresses the topic of life here and hereafter and focuses on beliefs and practices of diverse origins, their formation, spread and expressions. It also focuses on the past and current representations of the phenomenon in specific regions and worldwide, discussing its diverse manifestations and changes concerning institutional and individual religiosities on (trans)national and (trans)regional levels.

Meeting with Death

The conference welcomes both empirical and theoretical contributions from various disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary approaches towards beliefs and practices within the domain of life here and hereafter. Of particular interest are those that combine perspectives and methods drawn from all social sciences and humanities on historical, present, and newly emerging approaches towards conceptions, manifestations and representations, as well as research methods, issues and problems, and new directions in studies of this phenomenon.

The 3rd Conference of the Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions Life Here and Hereafter: Beliefs and Practices will be held on October 23-24, 2015 at Vilnius University, Vilnius. We welcome scholars from religious studies, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, political science, and other disciplines to contribute to historical and contemporary studies of the role and manifestations of the phenomenon of life here and hereafter, in this way enriching its academic understandings. We expect individual paper proposals as well as panel proposals with three to four presentations.

We invite papers and panels including, but not limited to the following topics:

  • Methodological implications, challenges and issues;
  • Life here and hereafter and their socio-cultural representations;
  • Death and dying related beliefs and practices;
  • Divinations, predictions and prophecies;
  • The role of individuals and institutions in practices related to beliefs in life here and hereafter;
  • Life here, hereafter and cultural memory;
  • Life here and hereafter: religious and secular approaches;
  • Life, dying and afterlife in traditional religious groups and churches in the past and in the 21st century;
  • Life here and hereafter within contemporary spirituality, individual religiosity, combined forms of organized and individual religions;
  • Institutional arrangements, development and changes of beliefs and practices within the domain of life here and hereafter;
  • Afterlife and social imagination;
  • Life here and hereafter in the public sphere;
  • Life here and hereafter in the popular culture.

Please submit a 250-300 words abstract of your presentation accompanied by a short CV by e-mail to: religiousstudieslt@gmail.com by July 1, 2015. If you are interested in another topic related to the study of life here and hereafter, we encourage you to organize a session/panel. In this case, please submit a 200-300 words proposal by July 15, 2013 to the same email address.

Key dates

  • Submission of paper and session/panel proposals – July 1, 2015.
  • The authors of accepted proposals will be notified by July 15, 2015.
  • Notification of acceptance and opening of the registration – July 15, 2015.
  • The final date of the registration for the conference –September 15, 2015.
  • Final program – September 20, 2015

Fees

Conference fee (50 Euro) may be paid by bank transfer or in cash (not by card) at the registration desk.

The costs of travel and lodging should be covered by the participants.

Special events

Participants of the conference will be offered excursion in Vilnius city.

Organisers: dr. Eglė Aleknaitė (Vytautas Magnus University), assoc. prof. Milda Ališauskienė (Vytautas Magnus University), prof. Audrius Beinorius (Vilnius University), assoc. prof. Aušra Pažėraitė (Vilnius University), dr. Rasa Pranskevičiūtė (Vytautas Magnus University), prof. Egdūnas Račius (Vytautas Magnus University), assoc. prof. Annika Hvithamar (Copenhagen University).

Any conference related queries are to be sent to the conference email address. More information is available at http://en.religijotyra.lt/

Please feel free to spread this message.

Download this call for papers as a PDF file.

To see updates, see the Conference 2015 page.