The Next Generation of Religious Heritage Professionals: Freya de Cauwer

The Next Generation of Religious Heritage Professionals: Freya de Cauwer

In honour of FRH’s 10th year anniversary, we would like to turn our attention towards the future generations of heritage professionals, those who have chosen to dedicate their careers towards protecting Europe’s religious heritage for the generations that will follow them. Freya de Cauwer, a student of FRH Member Todd Weir’s master’s program “Religion and Cultural Heritage” at the University of Groningen, recently completed a four-month internship with FRH. During her time with FRH she was able to learn about working in the heritage sector, issues related to religious heritage, and the ways that FRH is working to safeguard religious heritage. Upon reflecting on what she had learned during her time at FRH, she became inspired to write an article where she shares her passion for heritage and her future plans for pursuing a career in religious heritage.

I am the Next Generation.  

My name is Freya. I am 23 years old, I am not famous and I am not a professor, but I am the future of religious heritage.

Since my childhood, I have been fascinated by people’s stories, traditions, culture and history. Travelling around the world brought me into contact with different lifestyles, behaviours, ways of thinking. Those experiences eventually led me to choose to study theology and religion at the University of Louvain (Belgium) and later on religion and cultural heritage at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands).

Although a lot of people might deny it nowadays, I do believe that religion still plays an important role in our lives and society. Everything we believe and everything we do is consciously or unconsciously driven by values based in religion. In order to make this world a better place, it’s extremely important to learn from one another, as well as to communicate and respect each other. Learning, communicating and respecting are also the key ingredients to create a positive attitude towards the protection, preservation, and conservation of cultural and religious heritage. One cannot only protect a church by having the necessary finances. Saving cultural and religious heritage requires the consent of all parties involved. One can only get that consent by digging for the different point of views that come from different backgrounds, cultures or religions. Upon getting the complete picture, one can start to get creative in protecting the heritage. It’s difficult, challenging and fascinating at the same time!

Very often people don’t understand why I want to put time and effort into, what they call, outdated and dusty topics such as religion and heritage. My answer to them is a George Clooney quote from the film The Monuments Men (2014):

You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed.

That is why I do what I do – to make sure that we don’t end up without our own history. To succeed, I think it is very important to encourage young people to be interested in their past and present world because there is no future without the past and the present. Being involved and knowing what’s going on in the world (wars, politics, finances, gender, ecology, and so on) is necessary to understand what people say and do and it is also necessary to understand why buildings, objects and traditions should be protected for the next generations.

Come and join me, because there is an immense world of stones and materials and a mountain of inspiring stories and adventures waiting for us!

Freya de Cauwer, Brussels, Belgium 2021

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