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Arve Brunvoll

Morality in Eritrean Society

A United Eritrean-Norwegian Research Project



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Morality in Eritrean Society
Eritrean-
Norwegian Research Project

Prof. Dr. Arve Brunvoll
The Norwegian Teacher Academy
School of Religion and Education
P.O. Box 74 Sandviken
N-5812 Bergen
NORWAY
emailarve.brunvoll
@vh.nla.no

1

  Eritrea has a historic background of mainly peaceful co-existence between tribes and different ethnic groups tied together by language, traditions, and religion. The fight for independence, going on for more than 30 years, united groups with conflicting interests and developed a sense of national identity across borders. Men and women were standing shoulder by shoulder trying to drive away the intruders. The present period of reconstruction following the longed-for independence is a critical time for the Eritrean society and the Eritrean people. A peaceful development depends on successful attempts to strengthen the established links between the ethnic groups and to develop further the mutual understanding and respect between different religious groups.



 Aims of the project

2

  So, the research project, prepared by Arve Brunvoll and Trygve Bergem from Bergen, in co-operation with scholars from Eritrean religious communities, seeks to study Eritrean traditions and attitudes as conditions for promoting the development of tolerance and peaceful co-existence in a multicultural society through formal and informal education in society and religious communities.

3

  The aims of the project are:
– To study and compare how values are imparted, formally and informally, within different ethnic groups and religious communities in Eritrea.
– To examine the relationship between religious affiliation and the perception and interpretation of fundamental values in the Eritrean culture.
– To identify the possibilities and the constraints for the development of attitudes promoting mutual understanding and respect between members of different religious groups in a multi-cultural society.
– To develop research models and strategies which could be applied in similar research in other African cultures.
– To consider the possibilities for developing a common ethic which could pave the way towards mutual respect and tolerance across ethnic and religious borders as well as promote peaceful co-existence.
– To contribute to the enhancement of Eritrean research competence.



 Method

The research project, prepared by Arve Brunvoll and Trygve Bergem, in co-operation with scholars from Eritrean religious communities, seeks to study Eritrean traditions and attitudes as conditions for promoting the development of tolerance and peaceful co-existence in a multicultural society through formal and informal education in society and religious communities.

4

  The complexity of the problem and the special features of the planned research call for a thorough consideration of the methodological approaches which should be used. We are referring to the language difficulties-the fact that some of the respondents are illiterate and others are not. Due to the differences between the subcultures, we have reason to believe that values are expressed differently. The multiple traditions within the subcultures most certainly amplify this effect.

5

  The facts mentioned above limit the choice of research methods. At the same time the development and use of a proper methodological approach can be seen as one of the most challenging issues we are facing at the outset.

6

  At this point it seems to us that the most proper methods which should be considered further can be found within the area of field research. By this we are suggesting that forms of unstructured/structured observations, taped interviews, taped life stories, and the interpretation of ethical dilemmas stand out as the most promising and adequate options.



 The hypothesis

Arve Brunvoll
is Professor at the Norwegian Teacher Academy for Studies in Religion and Education in Bergen.

7

  Our working hypothesis is that an ethic will always be grounded in a comprehensive cultural context of a particular character. Therefore the question of a common ethic cannot be studied only on a general level (meta-level), but has to be related to the basic elements in the implicit and explicit self-understanding of the various cultures. A viable transcultural education for tolerance and co-existence can consequently only be based on basic elements inherent in the various cultures themselves (i.e., it has to respect the integrity of the actual cultures) and upon possibilities for change which result from the actual encounter between cultures (i.e., it cannot be superimposed on them).

8

  The question of the possibility of a universal or common ethic can be regarded as a perennial question in the theory of ethics. In the present situation this question has radically become more than a theoretical question. The reasons are obvious:
  1. Societies in the developed world have become multicultural.
  2. The state of the world demands common decisions for the sake of a sustainable ecological development.
  3. The resurgence of ethnical, cultural, and religious tensions creates disruptions in countries and regions in Africa, the Middle East and even Europe.



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