A multi-faith gathering…
with inter-faith sensitivities
- Multifaith: a situation where many faiths are present in one setting
- Interfaith: activities that involve an interaction between different faiths such as dialoguing, praying, marrying, or working on joint projects.
At STAR, we spend five days learning about trauma and issues of security, justice, and peacebuilding together in order to better serve our home communities. Trauma hits us where we are most vulnerable, makes chaos out of the order of our lives, and requires our deepest resources and beliefs to help us make sense of life again. As human beings, it is normal to turn to our own faith traditions for comfort and reassurance at such times.
Because of this, we suggest seeing STAR primarily as a multi-faith gathering. During the week, we will reflect on our own traumas and those of our communities. Each of us needs the safety and space to do this, freely using the language of our own faith traditions.
To this end, we suggest that leaders and participants agree:
- That as individuals, each of us has the freedom to express ourselves using the language of our own faith traditions
- That we speak for ourselves rather than being prescriptive for the group
- That we will not engage in theological debates
However, activities involving corporate responses such as praying together, singing together, or engaging in rituals can present challenges in a multi-faith setting. These are deeply meaningful activities where all need to feel they can be involved with integrity. Therefore, we suggest observing inter-faith sensitivities during such group activities, by using language that binds rather than divides. (See Language section below.)
For some, observing inter-faith sensitivities may feel like speaking a foreign language. The models and materials may feel “secular” when devoid of the familiar vocabulary of our faith.
- That we see this as an opportunity to stretch and grow, and recognize that we all have the opportunity and freedom to add the understandings of our faith traditions to the models and materials.
- That we own that many of us have much to learn about other people’s faiths.
- To aid in our learning we can:
- Ask rather than making statements about another’s faith (e.g. “I understand that Hindus ……. Am I correct?”)
- Use the “ouch,” then educate principle, if someone says something that offends or hurts us. (E.g. “Ouch, making that generalization about Islam reinforces tired, outdated stereotypes. In fact, Islam teaches……)
- Assume that no one in the group is out to deliberately hurt or denigrate our faith
- Tell personal stories to illustrate why we feel a certain way about something controversial rather that making general statements or pronouncements
Suggested language for inter-faith worship (litanies, prayers, rituals, songs)
Choose words that:
- Enable all faiths to give assent: peace, compatibility, understanding, awareness, sensitivities, cooperation.
- Appeal to our better nature and avoid individual and divisive appeals: respect, friendship, accord, harmony, amity, empathy, neighbors, community, citizens.
- Avoid sectarian references to religious leaders.
- Avoid language and code words which may foster confusion and misunderstanding: Blessed be the name of…, when the rapture comes, pagan, idolater, blasphemer, infidel, non-believers, etc.
We welcome your additional suggestions and comments. We look forward to a wonderful week of learning and growing together.