This article examines the role religious institutions, communities, and individuals might play in democratising 21st-century cities. Based on participatory action research with the Sydney Alliance, a broad-based community organisation in Sydney, Australia, I examine how a civil society coalition attempts to draw religious communities into the political life of the city, the way religious culture and space shapes the political culture of the coalition, and the challenges faced by the coalition in working across religious and nonreligious difference. I argue that political coalitions like the Sydney Alliance that work across diverse worldviews are pulled in two different directions: the effort to democratise and make space for worldview plurality appears to lead to political moderation, despite apparent commitment to progressive social change. Whilst the effort to diversify democratic participation and syncretise the best aspects of religious and secular political cultures has promise, ultimately the contributions of religious organisations to democratisation in Sydney through the coalition is ambivalent.


religion, urban politics, community organising, democratisation

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