Sample Expository Essay: Religion and Social Integration
Many studies have suggested the close relationship between social integration and religion. Religious beliefs and practices can be influential factors that make integration either difficult or seamless. Throughout history, individuals can observe religion as a driving force for social change (McGivern, n.d.). Historical events have illustrated wars that men fought in the name of their deity. Genocides have occurred in accordance with extreme religious beliefs. Various cultures contain the influence of foreign religion, mostly originating from invasion and integration. Even in modern times, there exist disagreements among religious groups and secular organizations that affect culture and society. Through these roles that religion plays in societal development, it acts as a bridge as well as a barrier for social integration.
Defining Social Integration
Social integration is a process of integrating into a new or foreign society or culture. The American Psychological Association Dictionary defined the term as the combination of separate groups into a unified society. During the process, an individual or group enters a foreign landscape and attempts to become members of the new society without abandoning their native culture or beliefs. Social integration requires the acceptance of different cultures, creeds, religions, and beliefs. Immigrants and migrants are individuals that commonly experience social integration as they enter a new country or territory. Immigration can act as a vehicle for social change , similar to religion’s effect on social integration. This expository essay example will focus on the effects of an individual’s religious belief on social integration.
Religion as a Bridge for Social Integration
Common Religious Beliefs Acts as a Binding Force
Individuals entering a new country can have an easier time integrating with the native culture if they share a common religious belief. Conner (2018) conducted a study that revealed that Irish-born congregants accepted foreign-born congregants while having biased views towards Irish-born and foreign-born non-congregants. The study suggests that natives will be more welcoming of foreigners that share the same religious beliefs. Their identical religious beliefs can act as a binding force between different cultures. Similarly, Otiso (2020) revealed in his research that East African Protestant Christian immigrants have easily integrated themselves into Finland society by participating in religious activities. The foreigners can become active members of the church since they share a similar ideology. They are also able to take leadership positions in the church, further strengthening their social integration into Finland society.
How can religion make or break society?
Mediative Role of the Church
Religion, through the mediative role of the church, can make the social integration process easier for foreigners. In Italy and the United States, the church takes an active role in supporting immigrants through the establishment of urban hubs, welfare services, living spaces, and social and moral support (Ambrosini et al., 2021; Garcia-Munoz & Neuman, 2012). These church-sponsored services allowed immigrants to have an easier time entering a new country. The welcoming gesture of the church can help the immigrants experience a smooth integration process, despite their foreign culture. Additionally, the charitable gesture of the local churches allows them to establish a relationship with foreigners which promotes a healthy and engaging society. The church can act as an advocate for immigrants which will further improve their social integration process.
Religion can Help Introduce Foreign Cultural Practices
As local churches and religious groups allow immigrants to take leadership positions in religious organizations, it provides the foreigners a platform to share their practices. According to Otiso (2020), the immigrants in Finland can introduce their ethnic cultures through religion since the locals are open to foreign practices. They do this through the utilization of their ethnic language and music which the locals find acceptable. This practice can lead the locals to learn the practices of the immigrants. Otiso (2020) stated that establishing ethnic identities within a society can facilitate social integration. The unification of local and foreign religious practices will lead to better integration and diversity in society. Additionally, the leadership positions that immigrants have in a religious organization can make them a significant part of the local society which will further impact the social integration process.
Religion as a Barrier for Social Integration
While religion can be an effective factor for social integration, it can also become a barrier to the process. A common issue that makes religion a barrier to the process is religious discrimination. In Conner (2018), the researchers found that while Irish-born congregants were accepting of foreign-born congregants, they showcased biased towards non-congregants. Alternatively, the Irish-born non-congregants were biased towards the church and its members. In a similar case, Garcia-Munoz & Neuman (2012) stated that Europeans tend to treat religious minorities with suspicion. For example, some Europeans perceive Muslim immigrants as threats due to their similar beliefs with some terrorist groups. Immigrants may experience hostility from the native population and make their everyday life difficult. This type of religious discrimination can lead to social and religious tension which can hinder social integration.
Conflict Between Different Beliefs
Foreign beliefs can often oppose the native belief which can then turn into conflicts between different cultures. In Otiso (2020), the study revealed that despite the positive acceptance of the native towards the immigrants, some natives perceived the foreign religious practices as threats to Finnish values. This can be a common occurrence since different cultures approach topics differently. For example, Finnish Christians do not condone the act of criticizing religion. However, some immigrant Christians may have values that lead them to question certain aspects of the religion, thus, causing conflict between immigrants and natives. This factor is the direct opposite of religion acting as a binding force between similar beliefs and is a topic of concern in social integration.
Threats of Foreign Beliefs to the Native Culture
Aside from conflicting beliefs, foreign ideologies can also become threats to native culture and values. The integration of foreign beliefs into a native society can expose younger generations to other cultures which can undermine their heritage (Otiso, 2020). This can start serious conflicts between two cultures as it threatens the authentic cultural identity of the locals. They may begin to perceive foreigners and their cultures as threats to their heritage instead of new members of society. It can lead the native population to become hostile towards immigrants and outsiders. Also, religious and other local organizations may refrain from allowing foreigners to take leadership positions which can further hinder social integration.
Religion plays an integral role in social integration since it is a significant part of any culture. It can act as a bridge that links different cultures through similar ideologies but can also be a barrier that hinders the common ground between locals and foreigners. The role that religion plays will be dependent on the local church’s perception of foreigners. Similarities in beliefs, opportunities for socialization, and supportive acts of the church can lead to better integration. Alternatively, discrimination and conflicting beliefs will result in a difficult integration process. It will be up to the members of the community whether religion becomes a bridge or a barrier to social integration.
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