The Institute of Religious Studies, ISER, is a civil society organization, of secular nature, dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy. Founded during the 1970s in Brazil aiming to promote studies, research and social intervention about extensive issues of Brazilian society, for example public security, the environment, religious diversity, and defending and guaranteeing human rights.
Over the last 40 years ISER has been attentive and sensitive to the important social demands and tendencies in Brazil and, sometimes, in the international context, of this period, frequently facing challenges which caused transformations without, however, changing the essence and profile of the institution, always identified with it’s innovative, aggregating, critical and transforming character.
ISER accompanied the development of the Brazilian human rights social movements, 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 formed by a group of researchers, scientists and scholars that share interest and commitment in the development of diverse investigations, especially about 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. Also, the journal Comunicações do ISER, that publicizes research and projects carried out by scholars of the institute and other researchers.
The journal Religião e Sociedade (Religion and Society), first published in 1977, began a new stage in relation to 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 documents published, 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, that later became an independent organization. Also ISER played an important role during ECO-92 when the Institute was involved in the organization of the Grande Vigília pela Paz Mundial (Big Vigil for World Peace), that 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 and also was involved in debates during the Peoples’ Summit.
Today, the activities developed by ISER are guided, above all, by 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, young people 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 coming from social movements, the academic field and public policy, pledging on plurality and dialog as tools which construct inclusive citizenship and solidarity.