An Object-based Dialogue for Women

in partnership with Glasgow Museums and WSREC (West of Scotland Regional Equality Council)

“a great way of sharing intimate experiences of prayer that would not [otherwise] have been possible with people from other faiths”

“I absolutely enjoyed it and learnt a lot. It was worth every second”

How often do people of diverse faiths share their experiences of prayer with each other? How often do they show their precious religious objects to each other and explain what they mean to them? What is to be gained when they do?

On the 17th June, 22 women from Pagan, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu traditions joined us on Zoom to do just that. They came with sacred books, prayer beads, a spinning wheel, a prayer rug and more. Some said they felt nervous at first, but over the course of the afternoon they opened up to each other, especially when in small groups, about how prayer has seen them through good times and bad.

To get them started in their conversations, Noorah Al-Gailani, Curator of Islamic Civilisations at Glasgow Museums, gave a stimulating presentation with photos of objects from the museums’ collections relating to prayer, including prayer beads from various religions – so many traditions use them! Noorah also shared a set of her own prayer beads from Syria “made of ivory inlaid with tiny brass pins. Each bead bears three of God’s 99 Names – his attributions. These beads help keep a tally when reciting prayers and meditating on the 99 Names”.

Then, in small breakout rooms, the women shared powerful stories about how they use prayer on a daily basis for support. About her bible, one woman said “..I meditate on it both day and night… it gives me peace and joy”. One participant talked about how she says a prayer every time she sits in front of her computer to study. Another talked about praying for her unborn child whilst she was pregnant so that he or she could receive blessings.

And what was to be gained from the experience? By the end of the session the women exuded a sense of delight in each other’s company. Some spoke about how much they had learned about other traditions, while others were struck by the “depth of commitment” and “passion” they encountered in their dialogue partners. They all expressed their gratitude to each other, some commenting that it was a “wonderful experience” and “a blessing” to have the chance to listen to each other’s stories.

As well as learning about others, we often find that people feel their own faith has been enriched or deepened through interfaith dialogue. This seemed to be the case for one participant who said the session made them “feel so proud to have a faith and so grateful for it.”

We’d like to thank all the women for their open heartedness. We’d also like to thank Noorah Al-Gailani and Chris Jamieson from Glasgow Museums for their thoughtful input into the programme and Bushra Iqbal from WSREC, for helping to bring this wonderful group of women together.