11 Sep 2015
September 11, 2015

Interfaith Summit with First Minister

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On Tuesday, the First Minister held an historic Interfaith Summit. Interfaith Glasgow’s Project Manager, Rose, represented Interfaith Glasgow and spoke on the question of whether faith communities can work together beyond dialogue. She emphasised the huge potential that exists for collaborative working and told those present what people from different faith and belief backgrounds are doing to tackle food poverty and help refugees and asylum seekers in Glasgow. Read what the First Minister said abut the summit here:https://firstminister.gov.scot/first-minister-welcomes-fai…/

For photos of the summit see our Facebook album here.

Have a read what Rose said at the meeting below:

Interfaith Summit 2015

Can the faith communities work together beyond dialogue and are there examples of this happening in Scotland? 

Rose Drew

In short, my response is: Yes and yes! What’s more, practical interfaith cooperative action has benefits well beyond its impact on whatever specific issue that action addresses.  It:

  • fosters a sense of solidarity and common purpose,
  •  helps communities engage with wider society,
  • challenges the prejudice that different faith traditions are necessarily mutually antagonistic.

But support is needed to initiate and help sustain cooperative working. As the question implies, there’s a difference between people from different faith and belief backgrounds talking about an issue of common concern (important though this is) and their engaging in joint action to address that concern.

  • Interfaith dialogue not infrequently explores shared concerns,
  • but less common are examples of intentional and sustained practical interfaith cooperation to address a shared concern.

An obvious exception is the work of interfaith organisations and groups which often involves people from different religion and belief backgrounds who share a concern for good interfaith relations cooperating with each other to deliver programmes of activities and events which have a positive impact on interfaith relations.There are pockets of intentional collaborative action to address other concerns. But given how active faith communities are in areas such as social justice, and given the capacity of faith to motivate, to create effective networks of people, and to mobilise communities, I believe there’s far more potential for collaborative working than is currently being realized.

This potential is perhaps particularly great in Glasgow, where we face some of the worst social problems in the UK: unemployment, food poverty, addiction, and crime, for instance. Outside London, moreover, Glasgow is the UK’s largest dispersal area for asylum-seekers, hence home to some of Britain’s most vulnerable and destitute.The reality, however, is that PRACTICAL SUPPORT is needed to:

  • help people make initial connections,
  • build relationships,
  • collaborate with each other in a sustained way.

Recognising this, promoting practical interfaith cooperation forms one of Interfaith Glasgow’s three key strands of work (alongside friendship-building initiatives, and a focus on specifically religious dialogue). We currently have two initiatives that focus on interfaith cooperation:  Our Food Justice initiative and our Weekend Club.

Interfaith Food Justice Intiative

Many people share a sense of injustice at the alarming number of people in Glasgow now struggling to feed themselves and their families. And many of those working hard to provide emergency food aid and moral support are motivated by teachings central to their traditions. Believing this to be an area ripe for interfaith co-operation, we’ve been working in partnership with Faith in Community Scotland’s Transformation Team to bring together local voluntary groups who, from within diverse faith and belief communities, are working to alleviate food poverty. Ideas generated for how food justice projects might support each others’ work have included: the sharing of surplus food, transport, and best practice, as well as regular opportunities for networking.

We are now working to initiate a core group of people from Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, and non-religious initiatives who are willing to play an active role in putting these ideas into practice. And we’ve also been running an ‘interfaith volunteer swap’, enabling people to help out at each others’ projects, strengthening relationships and mutual understanding between participating groups.

The Weekend Club

This initiative is an interfaith response to the plight of refugees, asylum seekers, and new migrants in Glasgow  (which given the current crisis could not be more timely). The initiative will, in particular, tackle the isolation and loneliness resulting from the limited provision of services at the weekend.  We have recently recruited and trained an excellent and diverse group of 12 volunteers (from  Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Pagan, and non-religious backgrounds) who together will organise a series of activity days one weekend of every month for the next year, beginning this Sunday.

These volunteers hope to draw on the resources and networks of their communities to secure the venues, equipment, and skills the project requires.