A survey carried out among religious education teachers by the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University has revealed that many of them are concerned about religious-based bullying of Catholic students.
The survey, Inclusive Religious Education: The Voices of Religious Education Teachers in Post Primary Schools in Ireland: Identity, bullying and inclusion investigates contemporary views and experiences of 214 religious education teachers in post-primary schools in Ireland around the issue of inclusion.
Some of the teachers surveyed highlighted hostility from non-religious students towards students who express faith and how, at times, the beliefs of religious students could be ridiculed.
The survey finds that religiously committed students often feel vulnerable as they are now a minority in Irish schools.
Teachers singled out Christians as the most vulnerable group. “Expressing religious-based convictions can lead to low level bullying by staff members” over anti-abortion views. Another teacher commented: “I suspect Christians get the greatest flak today. There is a general intolerance of the Christian worldview which needs [to be] addressed.”
Among secondary school students, those who identify as Catholic are the group most likely to be associated to negative stereotypes, while those who identify as atheist are least likely to suffer negative stereotypes.
Survey respondents voiced concern about anti-religious views such as “the lazy way that Muslims can be categorised as terrorists, and Catholics as paedophiles or supportive of such behaviour”.
Students who identify as Catholic were most frequently the subject of concern. The survey showed that 33 per cent of the teachers voiced concern about Catholic students with comments such as: “A Catholic student is more likely to be ridiculed or laughed at for their faith position so they tend to be silenced by the prevailing trend towards a secular humanist worldview.”
Other teachers expressed the views: “It is now seen as archaic to hold Catholic values among the student body.” “It is socially acceptable in Ireland to insult/belittle Catholics/Catholicism.”
A 2018 study on religious affiliation found that 16- to 29-year-olds in Ireland self-identified as follows: 58 per cent Christians (54 per cent Catholic, 2 per cent Protestant, 2 per cent other Christian), 1 per cent Muslim, 3 per cent other religions, 39 per cent not religious.
Along with Catholic identity, Christian religious practice in Ireland is steadily decreasing, especially among young people. 26% of young people in the 16 to 29 age group say they never attend a religious service.