To some extent, we can all be guilty of harbouring prejudicial attitudes towards people from other backgrounds. When we don’t have meaningful interactions with others, stereotyping, inaccurate beliefs, fear of the unknown, and a ‘them and us’ mentality can develop. 

These attitudes can change, but education alone usually isn’t enough. To begin to feel  differently about a particular group of people, we often need to actually meet such people, have conversations with them, and engage in activities together.  At Interfaith Glasgow, we have found that constructive contact between people from different backgrounds increases people’s comfort with difference and fosters fellow feeling through the discovery of things we have in common.

The friendship-building strand of our work aims to give people a chance to meet their neighbours from other backgrounds in an informal yet meaningful way. It’s about creating situations which encourage people from different religion and belief communities to socialise, so as to increase familiarity and promote a more inclusive sense of community.  Interfaith work is about much more than enjoying a cup of tea together, but the value of a cup of tea should never be underestimated!

This strand of work includes, for example, community meals, our annual Family Fun Day, occasional outdoor programmes, and various networking events.  At our Family Fun Day, for example, we usually have a try-it on stand where volunteers of different religions help people try on various forms of religious dress. This facilitates learning about other traditions, yes, but you are also much less likely to be suspicious of Sikhs once a friendly Sikh has helped your son try on a turban or to feel threatened by Muslims once you’ve had a laugh with a Muslim mum about the benefits of wearing a hijab on a bad hair day!