I am lucky enough to live in a town with a diversity of religious backgrounds and have thus had exposure to many religious traditions. I have visited numerous Churches, a multitude of Mosques, Gurdwara, Hindu Temples and a Buddhist Monastery. However, not everyone is as fortunate and therefore some people are often left to believe the negative media representations and folk laws of different religious groups which are plagued with stereotypical and derogatory illustrations. The only way to combat the circulation of these stereotypes is through education. Therefore, since my November 2013 JOU I have been actively involved with Encompass and have joined the UK Steering group. Myself and a few others also from the November 2013 JOU (Salma Khatun, Afsheen Butt and Ramsha Butt) organised and presented the first Interfaith event with huge success for the participants of the February 2014 JOU.
We selected the topic “Can violence ever be justified by religion?” We thought this topic was relevant to contemporary society and international conflict. It also allowed the JOU participants to gain knowledge about other religious traditions. We invited Pastor Luca from the Christian tradition and Shaykh Mohammed Yazdani from the Muslim faith to speak at the event. We also wanted to a representative from the Jewish faith but we were unsuccessful, having contacted a number of representatives from the Jewish faith, so the event went ahead without a Jewish speaker. The three faiths we wanted to focus on were from the Abrahamic traditions as the participants were from these faith, in future we hope to expand and have speakers from other faiths and non-faith traditions. (If anyone is reading this and is from the Jewish faith or has a connection please get in touch maybe you can speak at the next event!)
The event was an excellent success. Participants evidently gained much from the speakers, with questions exceeding the allotted Q&A session. Pastor Luca spoke about offering the other cheek in times of adversity, whilst Shaykh Mohammed shed light on the concept of jihad and its common misunderstanding.
The interfaith event was definitely a winner. In fact we hope to organise one for every subsequent Journey of Understanding.
Sanah, UK, November 2013