By Hashim Bhatti, is the Chair of the newly created Three Faiths Forum Alumni Network.
In a heterogeneous state where every citizen has the fundamental right to religious freedom; communication and mutual respect are essential ingredients for a peaceful and harmonious society. Without these, we would fail to understand each other, and this would lead to a misunderstanding beyond means.
As the demographics of the UK change, and with the increasing popularity of social media, we should take out time from our daily lives to try to understand each other better.
It’s easy to simply read news and views on Facebook and to believe them without question, often these stories tend to focus on one person’s view or a misdemeanor as somehow representative of an entire faith group.
For all the positives the Internet may provide, one thing it often does is reinforce and perpetuate pre-existing stereotypes.
I believe that it is human interaction, engagement and, most importantly, interfaith dialogue which can dispel any preconceived notions or stereotypes, as there is nothing better for breaking boundaries than actual face to face dialogue.
A prime example of this can be seen in the St. John’s Episcopal Church which recently opened its doors to allow Muslims to pray in Aberdeen.
It is incredibly rare to see Muslims and Christians worshiping side by side, especially within the same religious building.
This demonstrates how different faiths can respect each other despite having different beliefs.
It was also enlightening to hear Pope Francis emphasise that inter-religious dialogue is crucial to overcoming fear and dispelling the notion of ‘otherness’ in his speech (last year).
The Pope suggested that, “true openness meant remaining firm in ones deepest convictions but being open to understanding others” – a vital ingredient in a pluralistic society.
I agree with the Pope’s assertions but go further by suggesting that we have a moral duty to help society flourish and, to do so, we must engage with each other by creating a space where we can openly try to create a meaningful understanding between each other. There is so much more that can unite faith communities rather than divide them.