Blog from Leo Taylor, IFN Project Assistant

Celebrating religious diversity: A Blog by Leo Taylor, Project Assistant at the Inter Faith Network for the UK

Inter Faith Week is a programme of the Inter Faith Network for the UK and throughout the Week its staff and Trustees take part in a number of events.

During Inter Faith Week 2023, I was fortunate to attend a number of activities as part of my work to help support the Week.


Sitting as a Latter-Day Saint at the inter faith table

My Week began with an online lecture held by Dr James Holt, Associate Professor of Religious Education at the University of Chester. He spoke about his experience of ‘sitting as a Latter-Day Saint at the inter faith table’. I enjoyed learning about the core beliefs of the Church of the Latter-day Saints and hearing about Dr Holt’s personal inter faith journey and his reflections for the basis on which the community engages in inter faith relations.


Advocating for the importance of inter faith activity

On the Tuesday, IFN colleagues and I provided support for a special Inter Faith Week drop-in session for MPs at Portcullis House, hosted by Dean Russell MP for Watford with the Inter Faith Network. This event provided members of the House with the opportunity to learn more about the Week and show their support for local inter faith activity. I helped with planning and set up and it was great to have the chance to talk with MPs and members of Watford Interfaith Association about the significance of local inter faith activity in the UK (which was highlighted at the drop-in). It was very positive to hear about the strong commitment to good inter faith relations in the constituencies of MPs who attended.


Caring for one’s neighbour and increasing religious literacy

My first event of the day was at Westminster Cathedral, where its Interfaith Group was discussing the last chapter of Pope Francis's "Fratelli Tutti" and the message of caring for one’s neighbour. They spoke of how that is a common theme in many religious traditions and is particularly applicable to current events going on in the world and shared stories from their own religious traditions which demonstrated that message.

Following that, I headed down to the University of Sussex to listen to American humanist and activist Chris Stedman. He shared his story of seeking common ground with the religious as an atheist and discussed with the University’s Lead Chaplain James Croft what theists and nontheists can gain from being in dialogue; the differences between the inter faith movements in the United States and United Kingdom; and how people of different faiths and those of nonreligious beliefs can work together to improve the world we all share. One of the three aims of Inter Faith Week is to increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs and that event was very much about that. I was struck by the fact that there were so many present who weren’t religious, but recognised the significant role that religion has and continues to play in the world through its positive dialogue. The lecture was organised by the University of Sussex Chaplaincy, in conjunction with the National Multifaith Youth Centre and Brighton Interfaith Contact Group.


Reflections on humanity’s passage to maturity

Thursday morning involved a trip to the National Baha'i Centre in Kensington. The session consisted of reflection on passages from Baha’i texts on ‘humanity’s passage to maturity’. Reflections included how maturity is not just about age, but also involves responding to negative experiences in the right sort of way, a process which takes time and spiritual guidance. The discussion then led to a broader conversation on environmentalism and the important role that religions are playing in responding to climate change. Most of the participants were under 30 and it was very encouraging to hear other young people talking so eloquently about their faith and social issues.


Attitudes to water and multifaith stories

I began the day by making the journey to the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge for a workshop on attitudes to water in different religious traditions. There was discussion of responses from interviews and focus groups with individuals from the Jewish and Muslim traditions. It was fascinating to hear about the themes of water conservation and sustainability in both the Quran and the Torah. We also heard about the significance of ablution in Islam and also dry ablution - ablution using dust when water is not available.

In the evening I attended a multi faith storytelling performance on wisdom drawn from many faith traditions, organised by Luton Council of Faiths and Grassroots Luton and performed by the Khayaal Theatre Company. After the performance, the audience of all ages and faiths, agreed that the value of kindness, generosity, patience, courage and perseverance were common in all the stories told from the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim backgrounds. Speaking with members of Luton Council of Faiths, I was interested and encouraged to hear about the inter faith programmes that were happening throughout the year and not just during Inter Faith Week. There was a surplus of excellent samosas which I was urged to take home – a very nice end to an evening!


An Inter Faith Week football tournament

Inter Faith Week activities continued into the Weekend and on the Saturday, I drove to Halesowen to an event at Baitul Ghafoor Mosque in Halesowen. As a keen supporter of Norwich City FC and of sport generally, I was excited to watch their inter faith football tournament which had teams of different faiths. I was touched by the good-natured spirit of the games and impressed by the quality of the football. After the game, I shared some food with the participants; was given a tour of the mosque and - inspired by my trip to Cambridge - spoke with the Imam about the practice of dry ablution.


Diverse Doors Open Day in Bristol

Faith trails, pilgrimages and open door days are always a popular feature of the Week and as such it would have been remiss for me not to have attended one. So, at 7am on the final day of Inter Faith Week, I set off for Bristol to take part in the city’s Diverse Doors Open Day. We travelled by minibus to places of worship across Bristol: the Greek Orthodox Church of St Peter & St Paul, Bristol, Bristol and West Progressive Synagogue, the Hindu Temple (Bristol), Siri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Easton Jamia Majid and the Amitabha Buddhist Centre. At every stop, we were given a tour of the place of worship and a talk about the religion in question from a member of that faith. Each leg of the route provided an opportunity to speak with other participants about their faiths and about the places of worship that we had visited.

I returned to London at 8 o’clock on Sunday evening, having had the chance to attend nine different events. In between attending those,  I managed the Inter Faith Week Instagram account and added to the Inter Faith Week website the many activities that continued to flood in during the Week. It was wonderful to read about and see images and videos of the range of inter faith activities being held by schools, universities, workplaces, faith communities and other types of organisations.

Thank you to everyone involved for making it such a great Week!

Photos: Chris Stedman and James Croft in discussion during Inter Faith Week event, Photo by National Multi Faith Youth Centre; Participants at UK Bahá'í OPA  ‘Passage to Maturity’ event; Multi-faith storytelling in Luton, Photo by IFN ; Participants at Bhaitul Gafoor Mosque’s Inter Faith Week football tournament; and pilgrims stop at Bristol and West Progressive Synagogue during Bristol Diverse Doors Open Day, Photo by Tripti Megeri. Photos from bodies listed except where noted.

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