Interfaith is no longer all talk

Great article by Stephen Shashoua, Director of The Three Faiths Forum, on moving beyond dialogue.

“Interfaith work allows people to break through old prejudices and get to know the actual person behind the stereotype.”

Most people would probably agree that trying to establish better relationships between people of different faiths and beliefs is very desirable, in particular in today’s multifaith, multiethnic society. We have all seen what happens when those relationships are not working, with everything from inter-communal tensions to religious and far-right extremism rising to the surface. But fewer people have any concrete suggestions about how to actually go about improving the relationships. Interfaith work is a vital part of the solution, if it is done right.

The days when interfaith was all talk are long gone. Organisations like ours, the Three Faiths Forum, now place emphasis on generating shared action between people from different communities – at all levels of society. We work with teachers and pupils, with artists and professionals, doctors and lawyers, political leaders in parliament and potential leaders still at university.

Dialogue in the classical sense is still important, and we obviously want to see more religious and community leaders involved in interfaith initiatives – but we will not stop there.

So this National Interfaith Week, instead of going the well-trodden route of sloganising the promotion of interfaith harmony, we’ve organised an interfaith arts festival. Not only have lasting collaborations been established between artists from Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds, the festival allows the wider communities to see what co-operation across religious and cultural boundaries looks like in practice.

With this artistic backdrop, there is a school-linking morning for faith and community schools taking part in our and Pears Foundation‘s faith-school linking programme Shared Futures. We are also running networking events for women and young future leaders.

However, most of our work has little do with artists and festivals, and is about going into schools day after day, running workshops educating young people about different religions and traditions. Pupils get to meet presenters who hold a wide variety of beliefs (yes, including humanists and atheists) and can ask any question they like. There is a lot of myth-busting needed. The number of preconceived notions and simple factual inaccuracies that can be dispelled over just a couple of hours is amazing.

Interfaith work, at its best, allows people to break through their old prejudices and get to know something of the actual person behind the stereotype. This is above all a humanising process, where people discover similarities with those they previously saw as fundamentally different to themselves. And even when there are substantial differences of opinion, people often discover that these are not real obstacles to co-operating and getting to know each other. And they are certainly not a reason for hostility.

We see attitudes change on a daily basis, but it is a long process to really extend these changes into communities and society at large. Lack of funding does not help.

This type of work – call it interfaith, inter-communal, inter-cultural or whatever you wish – should really be part of our national culture. If we want to see a real improvement in community relations in Britain it’s not enough to just wait for things to get better. Interaction between faiths and cultures has to be actively encouraged and facilitated at the outset – until it becomes a natural part of everyday life. The cost of doing nothing is too high.

We don’t pretend that interfaith work is a panacea for all of society’s ills. There are tensions and problems between communities that can’t be solved by more inter-cultural understanding. But by getting over the negative attitudes that keep us divided, we are in a better position to work together to deal with the real issues at hand.

Promoting understanding and co-operation between our diverse communities is a crucial step towards building a more united society, free from hate and intolerance. That is why interfaith work is needed today more than ever.

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Take a SolidariTEA study break this Friday!

Need a break from  exam studying?

Take a SolidariTEA break this Friday December 10th @ 2:00 pm in the SPOKE,  UCC,  The University of Western Ontario.

Come enjoy some certified organic and Fair Trade Tea and refreshments. In order to collectively reduce our carbon footprint and respect our environment please bring your own mug or thermos.

Brought to you by:
The Tzedaka-Sadaqah Project
The Centre for Jewish-Catholic-Muslim Learning (King’s University College)

What is a SolidariTea?

SolidariTeas are gatherings held across the world bringing together people of diverse faiths and backgrounds to help tackle extreme poverty. Hosting a SolidariTea is an easy way to gather people in a fun and meaningful way. At work, at school, under a tree, in a dorm room, in the morning, afternoon or evening – we’re asking people of diverse faiths and backgrounds, to gather together to demonstrate solidarity. By bringing people together around a cup of tea, you can raise awareness and funds to help bring about a historic end to extreme poverty.

Coming together to end extreme poverty – The Millennium
Development Goals
Ten years ago in September 2000, 192 nations agreed upon eight goals for tackling the scandal of global poverty before 2015. These Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are arguably the clearest expression of globally shared values at work since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They constitute an unbreakable promise to the world’s most vulnerable. None of these MDGs can be achieved without a global movement behind it.

Faiths Act
Faiths Act, the multi-faith social action programme of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, is an opportunity for people across the globe to help the international community achieve the MDGs. Faiths Act mobilises people of faith in over 100 countries to work together to raise funds and awareness to make progress toward these vital goals, with a particular focus on the elimination of deaths from malaria. In the process, they demonstrate the power of compassionate action and show that faith communities can do so much more together than they can achieve apart. Our signature campaign is the elimination of deaths from malaria (MDG 6), but the Faiths Act movement engages with a whole range of issues that relate to preventable diseases and extreme poverty.

UN International Human Rights Day (10th Dec) & UN Human Solidarity Day (20th Dec)
UN International Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on the 10th December. The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation, on 10th December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights.

In September 2000, world leaders identified Solidarity as one of the fundamental values essential to international relations in the twenty-first century and emphasised that “Global challenges must be managed in a way that distributes the costs and burdens fairly in accordance with basic principles of equity and social justice. Those who suffer or who benefit least deserve help from those who benefit most.” In the context of globalisation and the challenge of growing inequality, the strengthening of international solidarity and cooperation is indispensable for the realization of the MDGs.

Convinced that the promotion of the culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing was important for combating poverty, the General Assembly proclaimed 20th December as International Human Solidarity Day.

We’re marking these two important days by asking people of diverse faiths to gather together in the period between them.
This is where people of faith can show religion as a powerful force for good in the world.

For more information feel free to contact Marty at

Hope to see you there!