Religion and the Media : Ayrshire Interfaith Forum Event, Hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Tuesday, November 2016.

So, there I am, at the door to the event and I am thinking, no backpackers who have been living off-grid in a tent near the Arctic Circle…? (My previous blog) Well no. But actually the event did attract nearly 50 people from several different faiths, did involve four excellent speakers on the theme Religion and the Media, and did generate some lively discussion.

Hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, with special thanks to Douglas Yates, the audience was given a warm welcome by Jon Herd of Ayrshire Interfaith Forum. Each of the four speakers, Svend Kamming, Howard Bartlem, Shahbaz Mirza and Jon Herd, then took to the lectern to deliver their talk on the night’s theme. In truth, a mammoth subject : Religion and the Media, with many off-ramps from the motorway of life, and slip-roads leading to many, many existential highways – metaphorically speaking, of course. Yet, each speaker navigated the topic with some sure-footedness, some eloquence and, at times, some passion.

It was Bahai representative, Svend Kamming who opened on the subject, taking an interesting route by looking at the topic from a purely Bahai perspective. The Danish-born speaker informed us about the faith’s history, adherence to the idea of oneness and of the ideas of love, unity and humanity the Bahai promotes. Howard Bartlem from the Religious Society of Friends, otherwise known as The Quakers, presented a lively, thoughtful meditation on Quaker stillness, in an increasingly ‘loud’ social media world. Providing statistics he told the audience Facebook had 1.5 billion users worldwide, and that we lived in a society where 9000 tweets are typed up every second. He wondered if it added to a growing sense of atomisation and isolation? Concluding by asking a teasing question to those assembled : ‘Can you live without the internet?’ Personally, I sadly doubt it, but I wondered what others in the audience were thinking. No? Yes? Gladly?

With that thought hanging delicately in the air, third speaker Shahbaz Mirza of Ayrshire Central Mosque delivered a talk which was equally contemporaneous. But, Shahbaz, was a bit more positive about social media. He did refer to social media as : ‘a lot more noise’, but he also recognised it could be harnessed to spread messages and to help innovate and bring modernity to his faith. As he put it, “…bringing it into the 21st century”. He asked how Islam could have a more structured response to negative media portrayals? With a media presence, himself – he has appeared in several media including print and broadcast – and an active interest in the narrative his faith presents to the world, Shahbaz Mirza finished on a positive note. He said his faith must ask why Islam is being negatively portrayed, and then, is it being negatively portrayed? Finally he asked, what is Islam doing to change the rhetoric?

The quartet of speakers was completed by Jon Herd, from the Church of Scotland tradition with a novel approach to the subject. He wanted to stand the question on its head, so, instead of asking how is religion portrayed by the media, he asked : what does faith have to say about the media? “The Bible,” he told his audience. “Might shape attitudes to the media.” On three fronts, he reminded his audience, the Bible lets us know about how we should conduct ourselves. It speaks of the prohibition of any image or icon, the prohibition of abusing God’s name or blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and of its opposition to sexual immorality and acts of idolatry.

Enthralled by four excellent speakers wrestling with the fascinating subject of Religion and the Media, the assembly was then treated to a musical interlude. Robert Yates, on piano, playing ‘I am Trying To Be Like Jesus’, from the Children’s Hymn Book. The attendees then retired to the church hall where the hosts had graciously provided food and drink, a lively hive of buzzing discussion taking place at each table.

Stuart Lang, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints described it as an “Excellent evening” and “ Very thought provoking,” while ruminating on how the different faiths actually had much in common. Roy and Jackie Dalley, also from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, agreed, it had been an interesting and engaging event and were keen to tell me a bit more about their own faith.

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I also met and chatted with ward historian Elizabeth McInnes, from the host church. She had said how much she had enjoyed the evening, we exchanged email addresses and I took the opportunity to tell her about the Ayrshire Interfaith Forum.

Everyone agreed it had been a very enjoyable, thought-provoking evening and it was over before any of us knew or had time to realise. All the preparation the speakers put in, the efforts of the host church in respect of providing excellent facilities and catering for those attending, the evening ran smoothly and entertainingly to a close.

Of course, the off-grid backpacker living near the Arctic Circle didn’t arrive, but he certainly would have been made welcome if he had. Maybe next year?

IFS Ambassador Sergio George Burns

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Lighting 1000 lamps for Peace and Harmony – A special interfaith service in Scotland

A special interfaith service was conducted at the Hindu Temple of Scotland in Rutherglen, as a part of the Scottish Interfaith Week 2016. The aim of the service was to welcome people of all faiths and none to participate in celebration of Harmony and hope for peaceful co-existence between humans, all life and nature.

The service was conducted in English and Sanskrit (an ancient Indian Language). The hymns recited at the service were composed 1000s of years ago saying prayers for peaceful co-existence between humans and the surrounding nature.

People of various faiths attended the temple today and had a chance to listen to speech by Mr Jagan Nathan, the President of the Hindu Temple of Scotland and also by Mrs Frances Hume, Development officer for Interfaith Scotland (www.interfaithscotland.org). Both these speakers in the recent past have lead ‘Time for reflection’ at the Scottish Parliament and between them carry a wealth of experience in interfaith relations. It did not come as a surprise that both speakers reinforced the message of peaceful co-existence and highlighted the various interfaith activities happening across Scotland and commitment to working together with various faith groups.

A special part of today’s event was the lighting of 1008 lamps. A very powerful visual message was created by including the Interfaith Scotland Logo within a very sacred Hindu Symbol – the Shiva Linga and meditating under the ambience created by the warmth of the 1008 lamps. To lead the meditation, true to ethos of interfaith, the temple invited Venerable Bhante Rewatha Thero, the chief monk of the Buddhist Vihara in Scotland. Venerable Bhante guided a mindfulness meditation and blessed the congregation to have peace and harmony.

The meditation was followed by sounding of drums. It was very exciting to see Mr Ranjith Sankarnarayanan, an Indian playing on a very traditional South Indian drum joined by Mr Chief Suleman Chebe who hails from Africa, playing his traditional drums. The event concluded with people meeting and greeting over light vegetarian south Indian lunch.

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In the past week, I had to chance to attend two interfaith events and to organise and conduct this special interfaith service at the Hindu Temple of Scotland (www.hindutempleofscotland.org  or Facebook: Sundara Ganapathy) .  As your ambassador, I learnt a lot, met a lot of people and we exchanged various ideas for the future. This is the last blog from me as an ambassador for Interfaith Scotland. I sign off wishing you all peace and prosperity.

As an American witnessing the recent American election results, I believe that this year’s Scottish Interfaith Week theme of “Religion and the Media” could have not come at a better time.

Hi Everyone!

 

I am very excited to be an ambassador for Scottish Interfaith Week! Here are the events that I will be attending in the Edinburgh and Glasgow area:

 

-November 15th in Edinburgh at the Quaker Meeting House, 7:00-9:00pm “Religion and the Media”

 

-November 16th in Glasgow at the Jewish Archive Center, Garnethill Synagogue, 6:30-8:30pm, “Misrepresented and Misunderstood?”

 

-November 17th in Glasgow at Andalus Mosque, 7:30pm-9:00pm, “Could Fasting Change the World”

 

I am really looking forward to these events that I picked out because each of them is organized by a different faith organization. The theme this year is “Religion and the Media” for all the events across Scottish Interfaith Week and I look forward to this discussion at each of these events in the upcoming week.

 

As someone who has devoted their undergraduate and postgraduate studies to the area of Theology and Religious Studies, I believe there is a strong relationship between religion and media and more importantly, this relationship needs to be addressed and discussed more today.

 

The first event on my schedule is in Edinburgh at a Quaker Meeting House. As a fellow Pennsylvanian from the United States, I grew up in the state that was named after Quaker, William Penn. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which is known for its Quaker history and its strong Quaker influence, which still exists today in Pennsylvania. I look forward to the conversation in Edinburgh and hope to see many people there.

 

My second event is in Glasgow at the Scottish Jewish Archive Center. The theme of this event on November 16th is ” Misrepresented and Misunderstood?”. This event will look at Islam, Judaism and Atheism and explore their media depictions and how the impact of media can have an effect on community relations. I think this event is extremely important following the outcome of the United States Presidential election, due to the fact that many faith groups might feel alienated and misrepresented by certain political parties that have taken a stance in the media commenting on certain religious denominations.

 

My third event will also be in Glasgow at the Andalus Mosque on the theme, “Could Fasting Change the World?”. I found this event particularly interesting for my own faith journey, since I fast during the liturgical season of Lent in the Catholic Church. I look forward to hearing what fasting means to many different religions and how the media plays a part in this topic.

 

Wrapping up this post, I would like to say that as an American witnessing the recent American election results, I believe that this year’s Scottish Interfaith Week theme of “Religion and the Media” could have not come at a better time.

 

The relationship between the media and religion is a complex and multi-issue relationship. I look forward to attending these three different faith events during Scottish Interfaith Week because it will give great insight into the current issues and considerations that are important to different religious groups and organizations, not just in Scotland, but all around the world.

 

I hope you join me in my journey as a Scottish Interfaith Week Ambassador.

 

-Mary Catherine O’Reilly-Gindhart