Interfaith Workshop outlines used by the International Interfaith Centre in co-operation with the Inter Faith Network of the UK at the Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom in Budapest, Hungary, in July 2002.
The workshops were devised to assist people from different faiths, cultures and countries to get involved in or develop interfaith activities in their home regions.
The first workshop focuses on the guidelines, Building Good Relations with People of Different Faiths and Beliefs. We have opted to use these as a basis for the first session because it is a focused starting place to enable participants to move into the general topic of the day.
The guidelines were developed in 1993 by the member bodies of the Inter Faith Network for the UK and all organisations wishing to join the Network sign up to them. They are used in this workshop, not as the best or only example of inter faith guidelines, but as one available example of the sorts of guidelines that can help people have encounters which are positive and which will lead to deepened trust and ability to co-operate. There are many other examples of guidelines and participants may want to mention those which they have personally found helpful.
Depending on the language mix of your group, you may wish to keep it together for discussion or break it down into smaller regional or language groups.
The second workshop is a chance for general discussion of the types of projects that can help increase inter faith understanding and co-operation. You may wish to mention one or two with which you are familiar and to invite participants to share information about other projects of which they are aware.
In case these are useful, a few examples from the British context are:
In a multi faith city, a council of faiths has been set up with involvement from Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others. People of different faiths are coming to know each other through its meetings but it also serves as a method for the faiths to liaise with local government to help improve the various services, such as health and policing. [Luton Council of Faiths is one example of this kind of local inter faith initiative].
The example mentioned in the lecture of the young people’s inter faith forum which brought 80 young people of different faiths together to talk about faith and service to the community.
A discussion group involving members of the Abrahamic faiths which meets regularly to discuss issues of interest to Muslims, Jews and Christians. [The Three Faiths Forum is one example].
Young pupils at two schools (those at one school who are mainly Muslim and those at the other school who are mainly Roman Catholic) have an email inter religious dialogue as part of their RE lessons. With their teacher’s help they are exploring each other’s faiths and asking each other questions about their festivals, what they think happens after death etc. [The example is from Leicester.]
An inter faith advisory group is set up to give advice on religious dimensions of a particular project. [This was done in the UK to arrange Millennium and Golden Jubilee Celebrations. Similar groups have been formed for many projects such as the development of prayer spaces in prisons, hospitals and shopping centres].
The workshop 2 session is also a chance to look at some of the challenges in making inter faith projects work such as:
Ensuring all the relevant faiths are involved;
Involving women as well as men;
If relevant, ensuring appropriate formal representation from the faiths (for example if the project is setting up the kind of council of faiths where official representation is seen as important);
Dealing with groups wanting to use the inter faith project as an opportunity to proselytise.
Some participants may prefer to use art as a way to explore the issues – for example designing an image they think particularly reflects and inspires mutual understanding and friendship. Materials for art work will be available at the workshop
The third workshop focuses in on very practical planning for inter faith projects on people’s return to their own countries or regions.
Again, some participants may prefer to use art or drama as a way to explore the issues – for example designing an image to encapsulate how harmony between different faiths could be promoted where they live.
Interfaith Workshops for IARF Congress: Budapest 2002
1st session: Thinking about guidelines for good interfaith relations
11.30 Welcome. Very brief introductions giving name, country, and faith
11.45 Explanation of when Building Good Relations was written, why and how. Why the members of the Inter Faith Network thought it was so important to have guidelines for multi-faith encounter in Britain.
11.50 Looking together or in regional or language groups, at Building Good Relations with the following questions in mind:
What are your overall impressions of the guidelines?
Are there guidelines you would add to those in the document? Or leave out?
Have you had personal experience of discussions where particular guidelines have been very relevant – either because people followed them (or similar principles) or because lack of guidelines caused problems?
Do you have your own Golden Rule for dialogue?
12.20 Reporting back if there has been regional / language group work
12.40 Close with short time of silent reflection together.
2nd session: Thinking about projects that can help promote interfaith understanding and harmony
14.30 Welcome back. Reminder of the morning’s discussion and outline of what will happen in this second workshop.
14.35 Facilitators pick up a few points from the lecture: how important inter faith relations are in every country; some of the sorts of projects that are carried out to create understanding and friendship between people of different faiths.
14.45 Whole group or regional / language group reflection on practical projects that can build good relations with people of other faiths and beliefs, including their challenges and opportunities. Art materials and card available to write up / express ideas.
15.30 Reporting back if there has been regional / language group work
15.40 Close with a short time of silent reflection together
3rd session: Thinking about how to promote interfaith harmony where we live
16.30 Welcome back. Reminder of the day’s discussion and outline of what will follow in this session.
16.40 Detailed discussion in regional groups:
possible inter faith projects to build good relations between people of different faiths and beliefs, suitable for participants’ particular countries or regions
particular challenges that might be encountered and possible solutions
or for those who prefer
a table and art materials or drama space will be provided for you to creatively represent how harmony between different faiths could be promoted where you live.
17.15 Presentations to the full group on your inter faith ideas in any form chosen (art, drama, verbal explanation etc).
17.40 Close with short time of silent reflection together.
Facilitating workshops involves:
Making participants feel welcome and included and that their contributions are valued;
Helping all participants who wish to do so to have a chance to contribute to discussion in both the full group and in regional or language subgroups;
Keeping the discussion ethos a positive and creative one;
Introducing each session;
Drawing briefly on personal experiences to offer, where appropriate, examples which can help the discussion;
Ensuring that by the end of the third workshop, participants have had a real chance to talk about projects that might be developed.
The workshops are primarily about participants having an opportunity for genuine discussion and encounter. They are places for mutual learning and for exploring ideas in an open environment.
2 of the interfaith workshop facilitators in Budapest: Shanthi Hettiarachi, Luton Council of Faiths, UK, and Britt Thorensen, Center for the Study of Holocaust and Religious Minorities and the Cooperation Council of Religious and Life-Stance Communities in Norway.