Inter Faith Week
Inter Faith Week www.interfaithweek.org takes place each November. Now in its twelfth year, it is a time when the spotlight is on the tremendous contribution that faith communities make to society and on work for inter faith understanding and cooperation in the UK.
Every year hundreds of activities take place, involving thousands of people. Faith communities and inter faith groups, voluntary organisations, schools, universities, workplaces, local authorities, emergency services and many others take part. It is a Week for everyone, no matter what their belief. A Week to deepen understanding, tackle prejudice, make a difference to those in need and to build new links and partnerships. As IFN’s Co-Chairs Bishop Jonathan Clark and Narendra Waghela have said: “Work to build connections between people of different faiths and beliefs is enormously important, and at this time of COVID-19 finding new ways to make connections is vital.”
The types of activity that take place for the Week run from dialogues and discussions, to educational activities, faith trails, training sessions, celebrations, cultural events, sport and more. Very importantly, the Week also encourages inter faith volunteering to serve local communities. These reflect the strong commitment of people of faith to working together for the good of their communities. Some of the activities take place both for Inter Faith Week and for Mitzvah Day, a Jewish-led day of volunteering (this year on 15 November).
This year, there is a big emphasis in Inter Faith Week activities on highlighting the ways that faith based volunteering has been helping during the pandemic. For example there are a number of high profile online celebrations of local faith community responses, involving the Church of England’s Near Neighbours programme and organisations such as Wellsprings Together in London, West Yorkshire and a number of other areas of England, and an online gathering on ‘faith in a pandemic’ led by Cheltenham Inter Faith, the University of Gloucestershire and Cheltenham Borough Council.
The Week will also see practical initiatives to tackle particular issues highlighted in the pandemic, such as a Colchester Borough Council and J9 Domestic Abuse Initiative training session for faith leaders on domestic abuse. There are also initiatives to encourage individuals to make a difference, such as the Inter Faith Council for Wales ‘Inter Faith Week challenge’ where the different daily activities include helping the homeless in Cardiff.
Inter Faith Week is delighted that National Emergencies Trust is marking the Week by highlighting a number of case studies of the excellent work that has been taking place with support of funds raised through the Coronavirus Appeal, such as:
- The Jewish Community Council of Gateshead preparing freshly cooked meals, delivered once weekly to local families in challenging circumstances, sending care packages to those shielding, and creating and distributing vital health information to those who do not access mainstream media and information sources.
- Pollok Baptist Church, Glasgow’s foodbank, which serves around 100 families a week in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland.
- The Link Family and Community Centre in Newtownards Northern Ireland mobilising volunteers through churches to provide food and prescriptions deliveries for the elderly and offering phone calls to the isolated.
- The East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre providing vulnerable local people with food packs, delivering hot meals and medicines to those who needed them; providing a counselling service, including providing support to those at risk of domestic violence, offering a befriending service for older people, as well as providing other guidance and support
IFN has highlighted through its social media and website many other examples of such important acts of service. For example, volunteers from BAPS Neasden Temple in London serving hospitals, foodbanks, the local police and fire brigade, as well as other essential workers and charitable organisations. A number of other Hindu temples have also been using their kitchens to prepare meals for NHS workers and vulnerable people in the community, in a number of cases in collaboration with Sewa Day. Likewise, many Sikh gurdwaras continue to play a key role. For example in Scotland, the Sikh Food Bank has delivered parcels of food to hundreds of people of all backgrounds in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen and food from langar kitchens or from collections has been provided by Sikhs in many other locations– in some cases such as Birmingham’s Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh Shaheed and Gurdwara Pita Kalu Sahib on an extensive scale. Other communities have likewise made a significant contribution, including, in the case of the Christian churches, through YourNeighbour.org
In a very different way this year, Inter Faith Week feels more important and relevant than ever. To find out more about Inter Faith Week, including ways you can get involved, visit www.interfaithweek.org, follow @ifweek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or search for #interfaithweek on social media.
Assistant Director of Inter Faith Network in the UK