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  • Writer's pictureJoAnn Sproule

JoAnn Sproule: Interfaith and Coexistence

The Future of Faith show is a monthly live show which airs on Facebook, covering various relevant topics which are discussed by a host of young people of faith. The Future of Faith shows have been a massive blessing to me during the last academic year, as I have not only had the opportunity to be a guest several times, but have also had the opportunity to host, inviting my own guests from the interfaith society I was president of on Edinburgh University’s campus: The Coexistence Initiative. With the arrival of the pandemic in March 2020, I, along with many others, felt more disconnected than ever, having little hope for the survival of cross-barrier, interfaith conversations. Future of faith revitalised interfaith spaces and broadened the horizons of them for me, allowing me and the guests from my society to speak with a variety of national and international guests in hugely rewarding interfaith discussions. It was an amazing project to have the privilege to be involved in, allowing me to talk to guests I would never have had the opportunity to engage with even pre-pandemic, and broadening the scope of cross-barrier discussion where distance itself once proved troublesome!

"I found friendship and community more meaningful than I had experienced in solely Christian spaces, and found the most profound spiritual insight and inspiration from people with faiths very different from my own."

For me, Interfaith is important for two reasons: to promote not only tolerance, but social harmony, and to amplify the voices of those whom we rarely hear. I grew up in Northern Ireland, around the deep generational scars and divides formed on the basis of religion and politics between Protestants and Catholics. I have seen young people my age claim to tolerate those of a different community while never engaging with, and in some cases, actively avoiding others, further entrenching the divide and the conflict between our communities. When I arrived in Edinburgh, obviously my horizons were broadened beyond the divides of home, but the want to rise above the generational divides I experienced, and to engage in warm, meaningful, and compassionate dialogue is something which drew me to Interfaith spaces, and is something I found in bucketloads. I Found friendship and community more meaningful than I had experienced in solely Christian spaces, and found the most profound spiritual insight and inspiration from people with Faiths very different from my own. More importantly, I felt that the preconceived biases I, and others around me, held were constantly challenged and re-educated, closing the gaps between communities and building genuine understanding. As a natural result of this, the voices of marginalised groups and their experiences are amplified in these spaces, providing a prime opportunity not only for meaningful dialogue, but for allyship and social change. Interfaith spaces are important because of the radical nature of their compassionate listening and understanding, and the opportunity they hold to be real motivators for change.

Catch up on our Future of Faith shows here:

This #VolunteersWeek we want to say a huge thank you to all our volunteers, past and present. Your passion and heart has build interfaith community on the ground: we wouldn't be who we are without you! Check out how you can volunteer your time with EIFA under "Get Involved"!

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