Interfaith Glasgow is committed to finding innovative ways to encourage relationship-building between people from different backgrounds. Our Interfaith Outdoors Project, for example, was part-funded by Forestry Commission Scotland and involved taking groups of 8-10 participants of diverse religions and beliefs on a series of daytrips into the Scottish countryside (Three Lochs Forest Drive, Loch Drunkie, the Clyde Falls, Inchcailloch Island on Loch Lomond, and Mugdock Country Park and Loch Ardinning).
Expeditions were led by our then Project Officer and experienced outdoors instructor, Kemal Okan, who introduced Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and non-religious participants to the diverse natural beauty of some of Scotland’s woodland areas. They undertook team-building exercises, hiked through changing landscapes, and tried their hands bushcraft, outdoor cookery, and mindfulness — as well as engaging in facilitated interfaith dialogue exploring the relationship between faith and nature.
I found myself reconnecting with nature, being able to feel mindful of the living nature around me, clearing my mind and learning to coexist with respect and understanding. I didn’t just travel with my body, but also with my mind.
The environments in which participants found themselves and the activities they undertook required them to cooperate, support each other, learn together, and encouraged the enjoyment of shared experiences. They also learned dialogue skills and gained an understanding of different faith perspectives on nature and environmental issues through conversations focused, for example, on the significance of trees and water in different faith traditions.
Participants valued the opportunity to take part in new activities in new environments with diverse company. They learned more about each other’s traditions and built positive relationships with each other, contributing to a more appreciative perspective on religious and cultural diversity.