Press release: Inter Faith Week 2021 – thousands take part in activities building inter faith cooperation and understanding
Inter Faith Week 2021 came to a successful close yesterday.
Many thousands of people of different backgrounds and all ages have taken part, with millions more encountering its positive messages through social media.
The Co-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network for the UK, which leads on the week, Bishop Jonathan Clark and Narendra Waghela, said:
“This has been a fantastic Week. It has been inspiring to see such a wide range of activities, including local places of worship open days, faith leader meetings and inter faith events, an amazing range of school activities and events held by local authorities, sports organisations, chaplaincies, cultural institutions such as museums and libraries, universities and colleges, police and fire services, the Armed Forces, the NHS, hospices, media, voluntary groups, businesses, and many others.
This has been a Week which has encouraged and sparked conversations, projects and partnerships which will further strengthen good inter faith relations and social cooperation for the common good between those of different faiths and beliefs.”
Last year’s Week was almost entirely online due to the impact of COVID-19. Inter Faith Week 2021 has seen many activities once again taking place in person, with others online or ‘hybrid’. Across the Week, nearly 600 activities are already known to have taken place, and details of further events continue to come in.
A number of events, such as the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ ‘Bridge over Troubled Waters’ and Anglia Ruskin’s ‘Reflecting on COVID-19’ have offered people opportunities to reflect on the remarkable contribution of faith communities to support those in need in their local communities throughout the pandemic, and to look to the future. There have also been opportunities to honour the memory of those lost, such as tree-planting ceremonies at Middlesex University and at Edgware Community Garden in London.
Among the events, climate focused activities have been particularly popular in the wake of COP26. For example a Wolverhampton Interfaith conference on faiths and climate change; a community exhibition of children’s artwork and responses on faith and the environment at Birkenhead Library in association with Wirral Deen; and ‘Action Not Words’, a discussion with Footsteps (Faiths for a Low Carbon Future) and Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group.
There have also been:
- Faith trails and inter faith walks such as visits to places of worship in Southampton; a ‘faith coach’ trip in Newcastle; and a trip to different faith community homes in Gravesend.
- Art and photography competitions, such as those held by schools in Coventry, Polegate, and Dewsbury; a poster competition at the Cynon Valley Museum with Rhondda Cynon Taff Community Safety Partnership; Nottingham Trent University art competition; and a photo competition by Walsall For All.
- Poetry, theatre and music events, such as Batley Poets’ ‘Anything Goes’; and a performance by One Voice Community Choir and Bretherton School choir in Croston.
- Arts and crafts activities such as a lantern-making workshop at Eccleston Library; an inter faith sewing session in Telford; display of a patchwork wallhanging created by women from Windsor and Maidenhead Community Forum depicting faith related symbols; and young people from Blackburn Youth Zone modelling a Noorul Islam Masjid and Blackburn Cathedral.
- Dialogues, such as a Hindu-Christian dialogue in Bath, on a wide range of topics such as climate justice and tackling domestic abuse, and particular themes in different religions.
- Dialogue and ‘get to know you events’, such as through the Inter Faith Network’s Inter Faith Buddies scheme, used this year by Cornwall Faith Forum; and an inter faith ‘Friday Night Dinner’ Shabbat programme of the Council of Christians and Jews where Jewish hosts entertained local members of Christian communities and welcomed them to a traditional ritual of the Jewish Sabbath.
- Exhibitions, such as those of the House of Commons Speaker about the faith of MPs and staff; at Milton Keynes University Hospital; Epping Forest Community Museum; Network Rail staff at Kings Cross London; as well as online, such as of Englesea Chapel and Museum.
- Online social media messages, such as those from leaders from the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Sikh, Spiritualist and other communities and daily posts from groups such as the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Prevention, Inclusion and Engagement (CPIE) team, Breaking Boundaries UK, and the University of Hertfordshire chaplaincy.
- Volunteering to help local communities, for example, Northampton Inter Faith Forum serving meals for the homeless at the Hope Centre; and through events held for both the Week and Mitzvah Day, including a multifaith food drive in Leeds and Bradford, and tree planting in St Albans.
- Meetings of faith leaders in places such as Belfast (organised by the US Consulate General), Dudley, Luton, Plymouth and St Helen’s.
- School activities, for example visits and talks at schools such as Breamore Primary in Hampshire; artwork from the Yeading Cluster in LB Hillingdon; classroom learning about Sikhism and Islam at a primary school in Gateshead; and a week’s programme of events at Strabane Academy.
- Employer and workplace activities, such as those of the Yorkshire Asian Business Association (YABA) and Northern Railway; Teach First; the Crown Prosecution Service and GWD.
- Sports tournaments, such as a Burnley FC and Burnley Building Bridges football tournament.
- Services, prayer and meditation, such as a week of Prayer and Devotion on the theme of Hope for the Environment run by Bangor Interfaith group and a multifaith service held by Guildford & Godalming InterFaith Forum and Surrey Faith Links.
- Celebration events, such as that of the All Faiths Network; an evening of music and readings held by the Interfaith Council for Wales/Cyngor Rhyng-ffydd Cymru; events in Preston and Scunthorpe linked to the Gurpurab, the Anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak which was during the Week; and others linked both to the Week and other events, such as Calderdale Interfaith’s marking of its 30th Anniversary, Near Neighbours’ celebration of 10 years of its work, and an LGBT+ celebration and social held by the Faith & Belief Forum and partners.
- Activities linked to Remembrance Sunday at the outset of the Week, such as a multi-faith remembrance service at St Mary’s Church in Cardiff, and a remembrance wreath-making workshop at Westminster University.
In a first for Inter Faith Week, Halifax and District Amateur Radio Society teamed up with The Blackley Centre, Elland, to put on a special event with an amateur radio station celebrating and raising awareness of Inter Faith Week. The Special Event Station demonstrated amateur radio to the public.
A growing number of areas and organisations held full week programmes this year: from cities such as York to small towns like Kendal; hospital chaplaincies such as that Stockport Hospital; universities such as those of Durham and Swansea; student faith organisations such as the Union of Jewish Students; and organisations such as the Metropolitan Police.
The UK Government’s Minister for Faith, Kemi Badenoch MP, issued a message for the Week. There were visits by Government Ministers, MPs, councillors and other civic leaders to many events. Some played an active role, for example Defence Minster Baroness Goldie visited the Avanti House School and talked with Combined Cadet Force pupils; Tracey Crouch MP chaired a discussion at Heart of Kent Hospice on how different religions deal with death; Kim Leadbeater MP participated in a Roses for Peace activity in Kirklees; and Hina Bokhari of the London Assembly made a number of visits.
The Week was used by a number of organisations for launches: for example, by the St Bartholomew’s Hospital of a new inter faith staff network for Barts Health NHS Trust and the Woolf Institute of a new resource on evaluating impact of grassroots inter faith initiatives.
Young people were at the forefront of many Week activities, such as school and sports activities. These included the Religions for Peace Youth Interfaith Network visits to places of worship; an Islington Faith Forum and partners youth debate; and the Faith and Belief Forum’s WM Youth Interfaith meal for refugees at St Germain’s Church, Birmingham.
The Inter Faith Network for the UK, which leads on the Week, held a special roundtable on local women’s inter faith initiatives and has also launched new video resources on inter faith friendship and on social action for use in school assemblies.
A number of activities in England have been supported by the Near Neighbours programme.
A more detailed summary of events and event types can be found in the ‘taster of activities’ included with the pre-Week press release, and the full list of activities can be seen at www.interfaithweek.org/list.
- Enquiries about the Week: IFN office: 020 7730 0410 or Ashley Beck: firstname.lastname@example.org at 07596 849 538 outside of office hours. Interviews available.
- Inter Faith Week’s aims are to: strengthen good inter faith relations at all levels; increase awareness of the different and distinct faith communities in the UK, in particular celebrating and building on the contribution which their members make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society; and increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.
- More information at: http://www.interfaithweek.org/
- The hashtag for social media is #InterFaithWeek. Inter Faith Week social media accounts can be found at http://www.twitter.com/IFWeek, http://www.facebook.com/ifweek, http://www.instagram.com/IFWeek
- Inter Faith Week is a programme of the Inter Faith Network for the UK (IFN) www.interfaith.org.uk, a charity which has been working since 1987 to promote inter faith understanding and cooperation in the UK. IFN’s programme of work, including Inter Faith Week, is supported by faith communities, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, trusts and other donors.
- IFN works in consultation with the Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum and the Inter-faith Council for Wales/Cyngor Rhyngffydd Cymru in relation to the Week in those nations.
- The final Sunday of Inter Faith Week is also Mitzvah Day, a Jewish-led day of social action involving people of all faiths and none working together in their local communities (https://mitzvahday.org.uk/). Each year, many ‘Inter Faith Mitzvah Day’ activities take place to jointly mark Inter Faith Week and Mitzvah Day.
- Scottish Interfaith Week is led by Interfaith Scotland (http://www.interfaithscotland.org/). It has its own dedicated website at: http://www.scottishinterfaithweek.org/. Scottish Interfaith Week took place earlier than usual this year between 31 October and 7 November in order to coincide with COP26 which was hosted by the UK Government in Glasgow. Many inter faith activities took place focused on the theme ‘Together for our Planet’.