Interfaith Peacebuilding


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Interfaith Programs

Focus Group on Inter-Religious Cooperation

Although the popularity of the interfaith focus session during GPF-UK could have been predicted, the level of popularity was unprecedented: Extra chairs had to be brought into the conference room even after the focus session had started in order to accommodate the large number of participants.

A question posed by one of the keynote speakers, Zishan Jiwa from the Cambridge University Faiths Forum, discovered how many individuals had been or are still engaged in interfaith initiatives. About half of the hands in the audience were raised, indicating that the other half were indeed relative new-comers to the interfaith field. The needs of both were addressed.

Zishan presented a thorough analysis of approaches to interfaith, demonstrating that there are a variety of legitimate agenda. His conclusion was that effective interfaith must involve the entire spectrum of a community, meeting the needs of all.

Dr. Pieter Beelaerts, a former politician and government minister in the Netherlands, spoke from his vast experience, entertaining the audience with useful anecdotes. Not only did he highlight the need for cooperation within a faith (intrafaith), citing a home construction project in Northern Ireland, but he also spoke of the need to address interfaith issues in the execution of social policy.

The final speaker, Yebuny Chandler, spoke of her experiences supporting and coordinating projects with Religious Youth Service. Her stories of personal experience illustrated the transformative power of humanitarian service, both within the community receiving the service as well as the volunteer providing the service.

Many conference participants took the opportunity during the breakout session to approach the speakers. New plans were formulated as the ideas being pitched found a receptive audience: 2009 will be an exciting year as these projects take off.

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