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Walking together as people of faith

13 November marks the start of Inter Faith Week 2022. Lynda Williams reflects on what makes it so meaningful.

The interfaith journey is one of joyful exploration of each other's spiritual lives. Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@lucassankey?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Lucas Sankey</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>.
The interfaith journey is one of joyful exploration of each other's spiritual lives. Photo by Lucas Sankey on Unsplash.

There are so many exciting and unexpected activities going on across the country during Inter Faith Week: tree planting, radiant heart prayer craft, mantra chanting, poetry sharing and interfaith cafés. Alongside these, I notice once again that many communities are holding interfaith pilgrimages or 'walks for peace'.

Inter Faith Week began as a way to help strengthen good inter faith relations and increase awareness of the different and distinct faith communities in the UK. Local groups organise events to celebrate and build on the contribution different faith groups make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society. The week also hopes to increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.

Since the first Inter Faith Week in 2009, inter faith friends have chosen to 'walk' together, often visiting each other's places of worship and hearing of each other's practices.

Walking and talking together

There is something so basic and simple about walking and talking together. In past years in York, I have had some wondrously deep conversations with Mormons, Unitarians, Pagans and Bahá'is to name just a few, as we wandered the ancient streets of York together hearing each other's personal journeys of life in the Spirit. What a delight it was and there was so much laughter on the way.

Perhaps what makes the literal walking together feel so potent is the underlying metaphor of this inter faith activity, the learning through sharing as we move along our journey of faith alongside others of faith. Interfaith stories in the media so often focus on the divisions and difficulties in those relationships whereas when we metaphorically walk alongside those of other faiths, we come to find the commonality of our values and can celebrate the diversity. The inter faith journey is not one of moving into any sort of unification of faith but is one of joyful exploration of each other's spiritual lives.

Developing mutual friendship

Positive Pebbles at Sunderland Interfaith Chaplaincy Centre shows painted pebbles with symbols from different religions and the words hope, peace and love

The journey often begins in ignorance of another's faith and then moves along through listening and sharing to places of understanding and tolerance and finally through walking and working together comes to a place of mutual friendship and acceptance. There is such delight in discovering the sheer diversity of belief, the challenges faced by some faith groups and yet finding commonality in loving compassion and the Oneness of the Spirit.

In this year of commemoration of the death of the Quaker John Woolman in York 250 years ago, I am reminded of his words:

"There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath different names, it is however pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion or excluded from any where the heart stands in perfect sincerity.

In whomsoever this takes root and grows of what nation soever, they become brethren."

Let's make the most of Inter Faith Week and walk together as brothers, sisters and siblings.

Events near you and online can be found on the Inter Faith Week website and Scottish Inter Faith Week website. This year, Inter Faith Week ends on Mitzvah Day, a Jewish-led day of social action involving people of all faiths and none working together in their local communities.

Find out more about Quaker interfaith work