Religious Identities Abroad
The religion(s) of a country can influence its customs, observed holidays, laws, food, and communication styles. Whether you yourself are or are not religious, it is important to be cognizant of the local religious customs as they might impact the way you navigate day-to-day life. For instance, you might find that restaurants have limited or late night hours during certain religious holidays or you might be unable to find certain foods in your host country at all.
Depending on your host country and your religious identity, you might want to relay any concerns or specific information about accommodations like dietary restrictions to your IPE advisor as soon as possible. In tandem with researching the religious landscape of your host country, take some time to reflect on your own religious or non-religious identity. By keeping an open mind about religious practices and becoming knowledgeable about which ceremonies and traditions are open to which participants, what dress codes are expected and/or enforced, as well as how to safety and respectfully navigate religious customs and practices in which you do or do not feel comfortable being involved in, you can gain a better understanding of your own belief system and that of others.
Questions to Consider/Action Items
- What role does religion play in your host country, be it in the laws, customs, policies, or other areas? What is the dominant religion in your host country?
- What are tolerance levels for other religions? What about atheists and agnostics?
- Will you be part of the religious majority or minority?
- If you plan to practice your religion, are there places of worship for you to visit? If not, how do you plan to practice your religion?
- Are the government and the religious body separate? Are there laws about religion?
- Is it safe for you to wear religious symbols and/or clothing?
- What are ways you can respect the religion(s) of your host country or participate in cultural events, even if you don’t practice that religion?
- Your IPE Advisor can direct you to resources regarding your specific home country and intended study abroad program/country
- CGIS Guide for Religious Identities Abroad
- Spectrum’s Faith & Spirituality Resources
- Diversity Abroad’s Religious Diversity Abroad article
- IES Religion and Spirituality Resources
- The International Religious Freedom Reports, created by the US Department of State, describes the status of religious freedom, government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies promoting religious freedom