Bristol Inter Faith Group: 1990 - 2016 and ongoing
Bristol Inter Faith Group is affiliated to the The Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom http://www.interfaith.org.uk/. The following links are to some of the faith communities connected with members of the Bristol Inter Faith Group planning committee:
When did Bristol Inter Faith Group first meet?
Bristol Inter Faith Group (BIFG) held its first committee meeting at Bristol Jamia Mosque in March 1990. In preceding months there were informal meetings to find out if an inter faith group would have enough support from the major religions in Bristol, it seemed as if there was and plans went ahead. A brief statement was agreed with representatives of Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh groups, and there was interest from new religious movements. A series of visits to places of worship was planned and that was BIFG's first formal programme. BIFG has never had premises, it's an itinerant group, and funding depended on individual subscriptions with some organisations affiliating. Committee members are voluntary workers.
Why did anyone think it necessary?
BIFG's constitution is written formally but its aims are clear - to get people talking to each other across the boundaries of their own faith; to discuss shared concerns; to combat ignorance and prejudice between faith groups and where it exists in the wider, secular world; to help people of different backgrounds and cultures to experience something different from their own.
Bristol's Civic Inter Faith Celebration
Bristol's Civic Inter Faith Celebration is held at the invitation of the Lord Mayor in the Council House. The first of the series was in 1993, held annually since then. Bristol's faith communities are invited to offer readings, prayers, music on a particular theme - in 2006 it was Walking Together. Three to four hundred people attend and, after the presentations, stay to enjoy the company of others over a buffet (always vegetarian and alcohol free). It is a great occasion with lots of children there.
The Inter Faith Walk
The Inter Faith Walk is an occasion where people meet informally, with representatives of faith groups hosting at their place of worship, and with BIFG members and friends - and incidentally to enjoy tea afterwards! In July 2005 the walk included the Ramgarhia Gurdwara, the Shah Jalal Mosque, the Church of God of Prophecy, Bristol Hindu Temple, and Bristol and West Progressive Synagogue. The visits are instructive, about a particular faith group, also about sensitivities and the proper way to enter that particular place of worship.
Dialogue and Discussion
In 2005 we discussed Collective Worship in Secondary Schools and later, How do we involve Primary School Children in the Spiritual Dimension? Both events were intended for parents, teachers, and all involved in the spiritual development of young people. Both events were hosted by the Council of the Progressive Synagogue. Discussion is obviously one of the ways in which to dispel ignorance and prejudice. A great deal depends on the attitude of people attending meetings, and asking questions related to the theme of the meeting. It became necessary to insert a request for relevance in the BIFG programme after a meeting where it became obvious that the questioner wished to cause embarrassment rather than seek answers. It's a risk taken by any open group and whereas it is good to have discussion, and possible disagreement, real dialogue depends on the will and ability to listen as well as talk. Respect might have become an overworked word but it is genuinely essential for dialogue to be successful.
The December Family Event
It has become an annual BIFG event in December to meet informally as a large 'family' gathering to share stories, food, songs, and to light candles for the faith groups in Bristol and in the wider world. Throughout autumn and winter there are festivals of light and hope for a peaceful, and just, world. For 2005 the title was 'Food, Faiths and Festivities' and took place on Monday 12 December at 7.30pm at the Unitarian Meeting, Brunswick Square, Bristol 2.
Some Past Programmes