In this research we ask whether churches and religious organizations in post-communist countries can contribute to social capital formation among young people. We investigate this relationship by an innovative research design that combines quantitative and qualitative methods and is firmly grounded in the comparative empirical research tradition. First, we analyze multinational survey data in order to explore the multifaceted relationship between religious participation and social capital. Second, we conduct 4 critical case studies that allow us to explore in-depth the mechanisms through which religious participation can be conducive to social capital. We consider religious participation to include both activities organized within churches and within religious nongovernmental organizations. The first pair of case studies forms a comparative investigation of the potential that churches and religious organizations has on social capital creation among the youth in Poland and Romania – the two most religious and religiously homogeneous countries in East Central Europe, one Catholic and one Orthodox. The second pair of case studies follows the same logic, but focuses on how churches and religious organizations lead to social capital creation among the youth in the largest migrant communities of Romanians in Spain and Polish in the United Kingdom respectively. We argue that the experience of migration creates a unique context in which churches and religious organizations become fundamental identity carriers and help preserve and reconstruct the idea of community. We will touch upon the subject of the consequences of social capital developed within religious organization on civic skill formation.
We posit the following research questions:
Q1. How is social capital constructed within and through participation in church organized activities and religious organizations in post-communist societies?
Q2. What institutional characteristics of churches and religious organizations are more conducive to social capital formation?
Q3. What are the features of social capital created within these institutions and what are its effects beyond the religious community they focus on?
Q4. How does the relationship between religious participation and social capital formation carry across national contexts? How similar are Romania and Poland from the perspective of social capital formation within churches and religious organizations, given that they are the two most religious post-communist countries, while also presenting different social, political and religious contexts?
Q5. How do churches and religious organizations contribute to social capital creation in the case of communities of migrants – a unique context in which social trust, norms and networks become critical resources for both everyday life and the creation of the migrant identity?