Thanks to our incessant search for knowledge, we recently learned that next week – 12 to 19 November – is Inter Faith Week. The week serves as a focal point for interfaith organisations to promote the work they do to bring people of different religions, and no religion, together, in order to create conversations and better their communities.
While Inter Faith Week may mark this unifying ethos on the calendar, interfaith efforts take place all across the UK, all through the year. As we’re always down to embrace positive vibes, we are huge fans of these organisations and the work they accomplish.
To get you in the interfaith mood for Inter Faith Week, we’re shouting out some of the best interfaith events or actions that have entered our radar over the past year.
The Lambeth Iftar
A lot of the best interfaith events come in the form of iftars. It makes sense, doesn’t it? We mean, can you think of a better time to get to know a stranger than to share a meal with them? For the past two years, Lambeth Palace has hosted a particularly special one.
During Ramadan 2016, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and 100 young people of all faiths and backgrounds attended an iftar at Lambeth Palace. The event, which came to be known on social media as the #LambethIftar, was a huge success, presenting London in all its diverse, united glory.
Thanks to 2016 knocking it out the park, another Lambeth Iftar went down the following Ramadan, this time in Westminster Cathedral. Like last year, Sadiq Khan attended. Writing about the event on his Facebook, he said: ‘Ramadan is an opportunity for Londoners from different backgrounds to come together. For me, that’s what Ramadan is all about – sharing time with others and showing empathy for one another.’
The Rabbi Who Fasted For Ramadan
In 2014, Rabbi Natan Levy decided to fast for Ramadan as a way to promote conversations between the Jewish and Muslim communities in the area of north London he calls home: ‘Even though diverse faith communities live side by side, we’re usually too busy to really appreciate each other’s faith and diversity,’ he explained.
‘But by having a Rabbi fast for Ramadan, a conversation could begin within my own Jewish community. People came up to me that first week in the synagogue and asked: “What’s this Ramadan thing?”’
The month allowed him to appreciate the beauty and tradition of another faith. Levy also experienced the incredible hospitality that comes with those crazy delicious iftar meals: ‘I was invited to more Iftars than I could possibly attend – I actually gained weight during Ramadan. People invited me into their homes with their families. The Muslim community expressed this incredible level of hospitality, toward myself and my family. It was deeply touching.’
What an incredible gesture. And we can really relate to Levy’s sentiments (including the weight gain part).
Thought for the Day
Do you guys listen to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4? Anyone? Are those a few heads nodding in the back? Yes? OK, sick.
For those who don’t know, Today is a news show that kicks off at 6am on Radio 4. For many people in Britain, it’s the first thing they hear when they wake up and certainly their first opportunity to learn about the day’s top stories.
By and large, the show involves presenter John Humphrys hammering hapless politicians with questions they’ll do their utmost to avoid answering, or presenter John Humphrys hammering hapless non-political guests with questions that will hopefully provoke a pointless argument fruitful discussion. It’s a nightmare!
However, at 7:45ish every morning, the combative war of words gives way to a three minute segment called Thought for the Day that, given the daily nature of the show, might be the most prominent interfaith-anything in Britain. In it, a religious figure – be it a priest or a rabbi or an Imam or a scholar – will discuss how their faith helps them make sense of a current story in the news. The bit is interesting, meditative; maybe even relaxing. But, in a recent interview, Humphrys labelled it ‘deeply boring’ and irrelevant in today’s secular Britain.
Here’s the thing. While a lot of Britain is non-religious, faith is still important to scores of the population. TFID gives people the chance to hear how religion can serve as a comforting way to understand the, let’s face it, frankly insane world we live in. It’s not preachy or proscriptive, and it shows how the values of different faiths align easily with one another.
Plus it provides a nice break from Humphrys and co.’s slanging matches.