The value of travelling

“The train now leaving platform four is the 10.45 service to Edinburgh.” This and similar announcements have I heard very often since I came to Glasgow last July. Travelling is a large part of my work with Interfaith Scotland. I travel, when I visit the different local interfaith groups all over Scotland, between Dumfries and Shetland and between Skye and Fife. I travel also when I attend meetings of the youth engagement advisory group in London and I travel when I attend dialogue events or networking meeting with other charities or institutions. I had to travel to come to Scotland in the first place as well. Travelling is nice, because it gives me the opportunity to see a lot of different places and meet interesting people. Today we have very easy travel opportunities and even if a train is delayed or a flight cancelled, we (at least the privileged people with a passport, which opens most countries for us) can be pretty sure, that we can reach nearly every place in the world in relatively short time.

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Most of the people I work with at Interfaith Scotland and Interfaith Glasgow have been travelling a lot. Frances grew up in Northern Ireland and has spend time in India, Else has a Malaysian-Chinese background, Maureen is from the Highlands, but has lived in Samoa and the USA and is exploring interfaith connections in New Zealand the next weeks. At Interfaith Glasgow Rose is from England, Magdalen from Northern Ireland and Lynnda from South Africa. In a lot of the local interfaith groups there are people who are not born in Scotland or have lived in another country for some time of their life.

On the one hand this mixture of travel experienced people in interfaith context is a result of our modern globalized world, but on the other hand it also shows that travelling has a value in increasing interfaith and intercultural awareness. If I never had met people from other cultural or faith backgrounds than my own I probably would not be that interested in interfaith dialogue. I probably would never have thought about the question what my faith and believe means for the relationship to people of other faith. And I’m sure a lot of people involved in interfaith work and activities share this opinion.

Of course there are different kind of travelling and journeys where people of different backgrounds directly meet each other might be more fruitful for raising interfaith awareness than holidays where people spend there whole time at the beach and the only “strangers” they meet are those, who clean the dishes at the hotel buffet. But the first step is anyway to start moving being open to meeting others.

For some people it is easier to travel than for others. Therefore Interfaith Scotland offers schools the opportunity to bring volunteers from different faith backgrounds to them, so that students, especially outside the large and diverse cities can meet people of different faith backgrounds. Two weeks ago I joined a group of volunteers and delivered a day of school workshops in Oban, where it is not that easy for the students to meet Muslims, Hindus or Baha’i. It was really interesting to hear the interested questions the young people asked and I wish more schools would organise days like this (even if it were difficult for Interfaith Scotland, because of the small staff team we have…).

One idea, which has been discussed in the last years, that I really liked was to provide every young person in the European Union with a free Interrail ticket. It’s really a pity that in case this project comes into reality the young people in Scotland and the other parts of the UK can’t benefit of this! I think this would be a great opportunity especially for young people to meet people from different backgrounds and raise their awareness of the value of diversity. Maybe the Scottish government or the UK government should think about supporting/founding similar projects or at least organise/support more projects where people can travel in Scotland to meet people of different backgrounds (be it from the Southside of Glasgow to the East End of Glasgow, or from the rural areas of the country to the more diverse ones), like Interfaith Scotland does with it’s school workshops. Hopefully more people can have similar interesting travel experiences, as I do at the moment!

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Scottish Interfaith Week 2017

Scottish Interfaith Week is over. More than 80 events took place all over Scotland. For me it was my very first Interfaith Week and I really liked it. When I look back to the last week I remember a very good dialogue at the Scriptural Reasoning in Edinburgh about food and food restrictions in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. I remember a very nice Launch event people of different generations and faith backgrounds came together and not only talked about the theme “Creativity and the Arts” but also became creative themselves in different workshops. I remember interesting talks and tours at St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow – even if there were not many people coming to those events. I remember a nice evening in Ayr organized by the local interfaith group with Choir music, a speech by a local painter and dialogue about what inspires people. I remember interesting meetings with youthworkers from five European countries who learned about inclusive youthwork during Scottish Interfaith Week. I remember a interesting event at the Scottish Parliament where the fantastic “Our Story” exhibition in Edinburgh was celebrated (you can see the exhibition about religious minorities until next April in the Museum of Edinburgh). I remember a nice evening with the Glasgow Baha’i community with interesting information about the Houses of Worship on the different continents. I remember a very positive speech of the local imam about religious diversity and pluralism at the Interfaith Lecture in Kirkcaldy in Fife. Last but not least I remember the great Interfaith Family Fun Day in Glasgow, with a lot of people from different faiths and nationalities.

Family Fun Day

Of course the events I could attend were only a small part of the huge range of events during the last week and also in the next days there will be some more events taking place.

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But what stays in the end of this eight days full of events?

At first a lot of people all over the country who put a lot of time and energy into the week. Thank you for everything you have done for making this week and all the different events happen, whether you did this as part of your job or (and this is the large majority) in your free time, besides your work and family life.

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Second, there is the huge group of people who came to events. Many of them might have been to interfaith events before, but I’m sure there were also a lot of people who went to interfaith events for the first time. Bringing these people together and showing them how to celebrate religious diversity and how to have dialogue with each other is a large achievement of Interfaith Week.

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Third, around Interfaith Week there was a lot of publicity work going on. Articles in local newspapers, a radio interview at BBC Radio Scotland and a lot of posts on different Social Media platforms helped to spread the word about interfaith even outside the “bubble” of people who are already involved in interfaith work. Also the different MPs and MSPs and representatives of local authorities and faith communities who attended events are part of this project to spread the news about interfaith work in Scotland.

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And what is happening now? Of course there will be an Interfaith Week in 2018 again, but until then it is also possible to increase the interfaith work. Interfaith is not only a theme for one week but for our everyday life. If you share this opinion, feel warmly invited to contact your local interfaith group or Interfaith Scotland. There are always projects and possibilities where you can geting engaged as a volunteer. You could also contact the faith communities in your local area and see if you can start your own local interfaith project (for example around a religious festival). Interfaith Scotland is always trying to support such projects as good as possible. So please, spread the word and continue the interfaith dialogue that has started/increased during the last week!2017-11-18 19.46.48

Are you ready for Scottish Interfaith Week?

Have you already planned what you do during the next week? No? Than have a look at http://scottishinterfaithweek.org/programme-2017 and start planning!

At the moment the official programme contains 69 events all over Scotland. There is at least one event in every region. So there can’t be any excuses that Interfaith Week is only happening somewhere else. The events take part from Dumfries and the Borders in the south to Orkney and Shetland in the north and from Skye and Ayr in the west to St. Andrews and Aberdeen in the East. At the Scottish Interfaith Week website you can sort the events by region or by date, so it is very easy to find events that suit your diary. But what kind of events are happening? There is a very long range of events according to this year’s theme “Creativity and the Arts”, here some examples:

 

If you like listening to music (and who does not?) you could visit an Interfaith Concert, for example on Shetland  or Edinburgh. Or maybe you would like to sing yourself? There are opportunities in Moray, Aberdeen and Stirling. You can also be creative in other ways than singing, for example at the Papercutting Event in Falkirk, at the “Fellowship, Food and Fun” Event in Dumfries or the “Family Fun Day” in Glasgow. If you want to experience other kind of arts than the ones mentioned above, maybe the Film event on Skye, the “Poetry and Spirituality” event in Glasgow, the theatre event in Paisley, the “Arts and Creativity” evening in Ayr, the “Food and Poetry” evening in Inverness, the film evening in Edinburgh,   the Dance event in Paisley, the evening about Baha’i architecture in Glasgow or the tour and meditation at Coldingham Priory is the best for you. If you like discussions about texts the Scriptural Reasonings in Edinburgh and Glasgow or the Meeting in Kirkwall/Orkney are perfect for you. Fife Interfaith Group is organising a Interfaith Lecture in Kirkcaldy and in Dundee you can join an Interfaith Symposium. Dundee is also the place for this year’s official Launch event.

If you live in another part of the UK you will also find events happening there. The English, Welsh and Northern-Irish events can be found at https://www.interfaithweek.org/events/map. I’m sure everyone can find at least one event suitable for him/her and I’m looking forward to this very special week. I wish all of you a wonderful Interfaith Week with great experiences.

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