Over recent days we have again witnessed terrible events that have raised the spectre of terrorism and hate. Too many innocent people have suffered directly, but the impact has been felt by millions more around the world as we scramble for answers and how best to respond.
This week happens to be Interfaith Week in the England and Wales, and The Feast is running a #howtotalkfaith social media campaign to highlight our work to help young people (and adults) to learn healthy ways to discuss the topic of faith and belief with those around them, and especially those who are different.
Here are 5 reasons why being able to discuss faith is so important today:
1. Social media is not enough.
Whether it be French flags overlaying a profile picture or retweeting an interesting article, social media is at best a token and at worst a distortion. It is good to be aware and we all like and share things (heck, we are doing a social media campaign ourselves), but it cannot stop there. Take action – online or otherwise – to question what you find on Facebook or Twitter, really understand the need, advocate for change, stand up for peace or the rights of the marginalised, and leave your comfort zone to actually make the peace that you would want for yourself.
2. It is messy and complicated.
The more you understand and the more points of view you hear, the harder it all becomes. Let’s just acknowledge that there are NO simple solutions. Immigration controls, calling out the army, limit access to guns, move on from history, change the government – all these and way more get thrown around as though “if you just did this” things would all be happy and relaxed again. Sorry, not so.
3. Justice is necessary.
Very few people would try to argue that the events of Paris, or Beirut, or Baghdad, Palestine, Kenya or wherever hostilities against innocent civilians have been perpetuated, are right. Criminal actions need to be investigated, those guilty punished, and the factors that influenced their behaviour discussed. Some of this process may be uncomfortable, especially where genuine aspects of our own faith (or religious community), are exposed in a negative light. The aim of justice should ultimately be for less crime and less suffering for all, so it is necessary to support and participate in the process, as tomorrow I may be the beneficiary.
4. Labels and stereotypes are not helpful.
No one likes to be put in a box. Not all Manchester United fans, members of a trade union or citizens of England are the same, so while grouping may help in some situations, there are other times when a label or stereotype can be misleading. Instead put yourself in the shoes of another, such as a victims and their families, a non-Muslim who is afraid and does not understand the new ethnicities in their homeland, or a Muslim neighbour or curry shop owner who is as confused and worried as you. Fight the temptation to treat “them” as one big homogeneous mass, and instead get to know individuals.
5. We need to work together.
The challenges of diversity and difference cannot be addressed by one group alone. We need each other. This is where #howtotalkfaith is so critical, as to work together we need to be able to talk about emotive issues of faith and identity, with respect, and make it possible to disagree peacefully. It cannot be about getting everything our own way. At times there will be things we totally disagree on, but that in order to address the needs of a whole society fresh solutions must be found. This is not easy or simple at all, but we are saying that finding a better future is only an option together and not by yelling from the sidelines.
A simple tool that The Feast uses to help young people talk about faith are our Guidelines for Dialogue.
Please join the discussion around #howtotalkfaith, and get in touch if you have any thoughts or questions.