The Public Role of Religious NGOs and the Problem of Social Integration: How Are Religious Markets and Public Religions in Conflict?

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:45
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
SangJi LEE, IOM-MRTC, South Korea
What are the public roles of religion in the light of discourses on social welfare? Subtle clashes have been noticed between theorists of religious markets and those of public religions: whether one emphasize the private role of market-oriented innovation or the public role of religions in civil society. We need to explore the commonalities and differences between the two theories. In Korea, religious organizations have played major roles in the civil society. Especially, in this era of globalization, many religious NGOs have participated in the public activities for immigrants.

My research tries to analyze the roles of religious NGOs for immigrants and examine how socially integrative each of three major religions (e.g., Catholicism, Protestantism, and Buddhism) is in its activities for immigrants in Korea. For this task, I utilizes qualitative methods such as participant observations and in-depth interviews, from October, 2014 to October, 2015, with the leaders and members of six religious NGOs including Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, and non-affiliate organizations.

On the one hand, religious market theory reflect on the competitive circumstances of religious NGOs to secure or recruit more believers. In contrast, the theory of public religion can explain religious NGOs' activities supporting the human rights of immigrants in the public sphere. There are common activities for the immigrants’ welfare at the private level, which are not covered by the government. 

Religious NGOs demonstrate implicit or explicit tensions and competition between groups based on different religious characteristics, objectives and services. Especially, different directions of activities raise tension between religious NGOs. This circumstances could impede integration of local community. In conclusion, this study contribute to examine closely of the roles of religion in the civil society in context of multiculturalism and explain the main cause the dynamics between religious NGOs.