Definitions and Narratives of Global Faith Relations
Sughra Ahmed reflects on our recent study programme on Global Faith Relations where delegates grappled with understanding religion, diplomacy and communities in a global context.
The Al Manaar Centre and Lambeth Palace became the settings for a two-day study programme where delegates from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a range of other government departments grappled with understanding religion and belief in a global context.
Over 30 people came together to share and learn, eat and drink, discuss and debate with a wide range of speakers, guests and with one another. People came to know how places of worship were used on a day to day basis; they witnessed prayers and spoke with members of staff at both venues about the significance of the ‘space’, what it means to those who use it and how it fits into wider society both as a place of worship and of cultural significance. This unique opportunity, facilitated by Sue Breeze and her team at the Human Rights and Democracy Department with support from the Expertise Fund, took delegates on a journey, theoretical and physical; to equip them with a sound understanding of a range of faith traditions, and those who follow them, situated across the world. We explored religions such as Hinduism and Islam, as well as the complex nature of those who follow religious traditions and the inter-connectivity between them; we also explored the global role of traditions such as the Anglican Communion.
A strong learning experience was enhanced by dedicated time to ‘experience’ faith and cultural traditions by hearing from those engaged on the ground and taking short tours of places of significance in the local area. Feedback from participants told us that their professional roles were enhanced through a greater understanding of faith traditions and an improved understanding of the lived reality of billions of people around the world who follow the range of religions, politics and diplomacy that was taught across both days. The course was particularly beneficial in appreciating how faith can impact the decisions that are taken by individuals who belong to a religious group, whether at home or abroad. This was especially relevant when we considered how nations across the globe may be influenced by their national religion when taking decisions that affect there constitution, laws, policy and communication.
The two-day experience left delegates feeling more confident, better informed and, as one person put it, with many more questions about global faith relations!
This article is written by Sughra Ahmed who is the Programmes Manager at the Woolf Institute. Sughra is responsible for the design and delivery of research and training on a range of subjects including faith, belief, communities and integration.