Interfaith Rules and Tools

These are a few helpful hints to get you started. The best way to help everyone to feel comfortable is to ask people about their needs.  If you’re planning on dealing with interfaith issues in a professional context, we provide training

TIPS FOR INTERFAITH ACTIVITIES

Try to make events and projects you run as inclusive as possible, being sensitive to different traditions.  Some people choose not to participate in prayer, meditations, religious music, or other rituals with people from different traditions to their own, but there is a wealth of activities that can be shared and enjoyed.

These are some pointers and ideas, but the list isn’t comprehensive – running activities and talking with people is what interfaith learning is all about.

Getting started

Be aware that people come from very different backgrounds and their customs, thoughts, ways of communicating, values, traditions, and institutions vary. 

One way of being welcoming and inclusive is to ensure the event leaders or organisers are from different backgrounds. 

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Timings and logistics

Before planning an event check an interfaith calendar to make check times and dates of prayer and religious festivals. See BBC Religions and Ethics Calendar.

Jewish and Muslim festivals start at sunset the evening before the day recorded in most calendars.
It’s best to use a neutral venue (i.e. unrelated to any faith/belief), or rotate between venues.  Some people will not feel comfortable meeting in rooms that are used for another faiths’ worship.

A prayer room may be required and the schedule may need to include times for prayer (approx 10 mins).

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Language and Communication

Be extra conscious of how your actions could be interpreted by people with different expectations and traditions.

We recommend talking about both “faiths and beliefs”, to include different faiths, religions and those with non-religious beliefs. 

Where possible, use specific terms from a tradition - try not to use terms from another tradition.

Explain any foreign words or ones that are used in a specific way.

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Gender & Clothing

In most interfaith environments it is appropriate and respectful to dress modestly; this can mean avoiding skin tight or revealing clothing, or wearing a head covering. Women may be asked to  covering shoulders, knees or wear skirts. 

Some people may not want to shake hands with someone of the opposite sex. Tip: don’t put out your hand first; wait to see whether they offer– or just ask.

If organising games or physical activities use ones that don’t rely on touching

Sometimes it’s appropriate to run separate events for men and women.

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Food and Drink

Some people observe specific dietary laws e.g. refraining from some/all meat, fish, eggs or root vegetables or only eating certified Kosher or Halal food.

Many people refrain from alcohol, caffeine or other stimulants.

Food can be blessed as part of rituals, which may make it inappropriate to offer to others.

Tips:

Have disposable cups, plates and cutlery available

Ensure that food and drink is clearly labelled.

Keep vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and utensils separate.

Offer uncut fruit, herbal teas, water and fruit juice

Check that pre-prepared foods do not contain gelatine or other animal products (look for the Vegetarian Society symbol).

If you know who is coming, ask what they do or don’t eat!

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Guidelines for Dialogue

if you are running or participating in a dialogue event:

  • Always talk about personal beliefs; no individual is representative of a whole community.  Use “I” statements (e.g. ‘I believe …’

  • ‘Oops/Ouch’: Sometimes you may say something that comes out all wrong and you wish you hadn’t said it. You can agree as a group that if this happens then the person speaking can say ‘Oops’ as a way of acknowledging this feeling and allowing them the opportunity to rephrase. 

    Similarly, if someone says something that you find offensive or upsetting (or believe someone else might find it so) you can agree to say ‘Ouch’, as a clear way of expressing this.  Once you have explained why you found the comment difficult, the person who said it then has the opportunity to rephrase.

  • Do not speak aggressively.  Sometimes raising your voice to be heard in a crowded room can affect the way in which you are trying to convey your message.   Most swear words have religious derivation so it’s best not to use any.

  • Be honest, but only talk about things you are comfortable to share.

  • Really listen to each other.  Barriers to good listening can include: feelings of bias or prejudice which cloud your understanding of what it being said; language differences or accents; noise; worry, fear or anger; lack of attention span. 

  • Keep an open mind.

  • Be respectful and aware of other people’s feelings.  You may not agree with their views, but you should be respectful to the person.

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