The Institute of Religious Studies, ISER, is a civil society organization of a secular nature, dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy. Founded during the 1970s in Brazil, it aims to promote studies, research and social intervention hinged on various thematic axes of Brazilian society, such as public security, the environment, religious diversity, and the defense and guarantee of human rights, among others.
Over the course of its more than 40 years in existence, ISER has been attentive and sensitive to the fundamental social demands and tendencies in this period in Brazilian history, and, sometimes, in the international context, frequently facing the challenge of changing times without, however, changing the essence and profile of the institution, always committed to an innovative, inclusive, critical and transforming character.
ISER accompanied the development of Brazilian social movements, revolving around the fight for human rights, encompassing a number of specific issues like the combat against racism and sexism, the defense of the rights of women, the homeless, young people, and the protection of the environment, among others.
Since the beginning ISER has been made up of a group of researchers, scientists and scholars that share interest and commitment in the development of diverse investigations, especially at the interface between society and religion. As a result of these efforts, various publications have been produced over the years, for example Cadernos do ISER, a journal that endeavors to debate theoretical approaches regarding the issue of religion in Brazilian social science. In the same vein, the journal Comunicações do ISER, which has been in existence since 1981, publicizes research and projects carried out by ISER’s scholars of the institute and associated researchers.
The journal Religião e Sociedade (Religion and Society), first published in 1977, began a new stage in ISER publications. Under the format of a scientific journal, it became an important theoretical reference for researchers and scholars of social science and religion in Brazil and Latin America. Today, apart from books, reports and other published documents, Comunicações do ISER and Religião e Sociedade are regularly published by the institute.
In regards to communication, during certain periods, ISER specialized in the production of documentary films, educational videos and community television programs created by the then TV ZERO, which later became an independent organization. ISER also played an important role during the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of 1992 when the Institute was involved in the organization of the Grande Vigília pela Paz Mundial (Great Vigil for World Peace), which brought together leaders of different beliefs and ideologies, defending the importance of a broad debate about the environment. ISER participated actively in the definition of the AGENDA 21 as an international public policy model in regards to protection of the environment. More recently, in the context of Rio +20, ISER participated in the official conference as well as promoted debates and reflections during the Peoples’ Summit.
Today, the activities developed by ISER are oriented, above all, around issues such as: Religion and Public Space, Sustainable Social Relations and Violence, Public Security and Conflict Management, and transversal and interdisciplinary issues, such as gender, youth, and mediation. It is from these themes that the institution organizes its lines of action, defined as activities that aim to produce knowledge, to develop strategic projects, and to evaluate and monitor public policy.
Affirmed by the quality of the research, studies, and publications, ISER has developed the ability to promote dialogue between the discourses emerging from social movements, academia, and public policy, betting on plurality and dialogue as the right tools with which to construct inclusive citizenship and human solidarity.