29th Conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion
July 23 - 27, 2007 in Leipzig, Germany
+++ Welcome to our guests from Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hongkong, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Morocco, Mexico, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, P.R. of China, Republic of Belarus, Republic of Korea, Rumania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine, United States of America, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Vietnam +++

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Welcome to Leipzig

The local committee in Leipzig – in cooperation with the Sociology of Religion section in the German Sociological Association (DGS) – welcomes you to the 29th conference of the ISSR ! We are thrilled that nearly 300 researchers from all over the world – from 41 different countries – pre-registered for the conference, truly making this a world conference. The ISSR last met in Germany for their conference twenty years ago. I speak for all German sociologists of religion when I say that we are proud to have you here again.

During the past 20 years, Germany has changed significantly, and these changes have had profound effects on religion. The first significant change has been migration and the growing role of migrant religion. Islam is now the second largest religion in Germany. Migration from Post - Soviet countries has revitalized German Jewish communities, but this revitalization has also raised tensions in these communities. Leipzig’s Jewish community has grown from 40 members in 1989 to about 1200 today, and the overwhelming majority of members are migrants. Religion today – especially religious revitalization – is no longer a local matter. But the effects of migration and world-wide developments must be addressed locally.

These changes create compelling matters for our sociological work. That sociology is a thoroughly comparative enterprise holds especially true for sociology of religion. Not only might we compare countries and regions, but we might compare the local effects of world-wide developments. The ISSR - conference is a perfect opportunity for such undertakings, and we are looking forward to contributions from all over the world.

The second significant change in Germany was the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of East and West Germany in 1989 /90. Activists and others who were weary of the communist regime gathered under the roof of the Protestant church, starting what has been labelled the ›peaceful revolution‹. Leipzig was one of the centres of these activities: The peace prayers in Nikolai church became the starting point for the Monday demonstrations – Leipzig’s contribution to the collapse of the SED- regime. Today the column in Nikolaikirchhof reminds us of the public role of Nikolai church. It is why we chose this motif for our conference posters. Despite the connection between church activism and political transformation, it soon became clear that East Germany had been thoroughly secularized during the years of the German Democratic Republic. Non-affiliation, religious indifference and – to a large degree – atheism had become the dominant and stable ›religious‹ pattern in the East German population. This development has had serious effects on the German religious and political landscape.

I hope that during your stay you will find plenty of time to discuss projects and – maybe – make plans for future cooperation. I also hope that you will find time to explore and enjoy Leipzig’s museums, galleries, churches, parks, cafés and many other places.

Let me finish with a word of gratitude: This conference would not have been possible without the tireless work of a young colleague – Anja Frank – who has been working for the organization of this conference for about a year. It would not have been possible without the fi nancial support of the following institutions: DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) and University of Leipzig, the Sociology of Religion Section in the DGS, DGS (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie), Sparkasse Leipzig / Vereinigung der Freunde und Förderer der Universität Leipzig, and Evangelisch - Lutherische Kirche in Sachsen. And it would not have been possible without all the institutes that allowed us to use their rooms for free. We thank all of them for helping make this conference possible. Now it’s up to all of us to make it a success!

We wish you an intellectually inspiring, personally enriching and pleasant stay!

For the local committee

Monika Wohlrab-Sahr