As a pagan, have you ever been asked to participate in an interfaith event? If so, did you feel excited or scared?
In this post, we’ll explore the benefits and problems of interfaith work from a pagan perspective and offer tips on how to navigate these waters. Whether you’re just starting out or have been doing interfaith work for years, there’s something here for everyone! So read on and learn more about how to make the most of your interactions with people of other faiths.
What is interfaith work and why should pagans care?
In its simplest form, interfaith work is coming together with people of other faiths and spiritual traditions to learn about each other, building bridges and relationships.
For pagans, interfaith work is about more than just understanding other religions; speaking openly with other faith groups helps to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions about our own faith – that we’re all devil worshipers, or that we’re anti-social hermits who live in the forest. Neither of these stereotypes are true! (Even if I do dream about my future forest cottage surrounded by endless nature!)
When people from different backgrounds come together to work on a common goal, it can help to break down barriers and create a sense of understanding and respect. By working side-by-side with people from different faiths, we can gain a greater appreciation for the richness and diversity of our world. Interfaith work can also be a powerful force for social change. When people of different faiths come together to fight for justice and equality, they can make a real difference in the world.
Whether it’s fighting for environmental justice or supporting refugees, interfaith work can be essential part of our own pagan practice. When we come together, we can accomplish amazing things!
The problems with interfaith work – and how to solve them
It’s not always smooth sailing, many of us have stories of faith-based intolerant beliefs directed towards us. One common problem is that people from different faiths may have very different assumptions about the nature of reality. This can make it difficult to find common ground, and it can also lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Another challenge is that people from different faiths may have different ideas about what is sacred and what is not, leading to disagreements about how to respectfully handle religious texts and artifacts. There is also the issue of power imbalances between different faith groups. In some cases, one religion may be dominant, while in others, there may be multiple religions that are equally represented. These power imbalances can make it difficult to create an interfaith space that is truly inclusive. But this only highlights why this work is oh so important!
There are ways to overcome these challenges and make interfaith work more successful.
- Firstly, it is important to remember that not everyone will agree on everything. It is important to respect each other’s beliefs and values, even if you do not share them. We all have different backgrounds, different psychology, different kinds of support groups impacting how/why we believe what we do. What if the intolerant beliefs of others were met with empathy and understanding of the individual, rather than derision of what in many cases is learnt behaviour?
- Secondly, it is helpful to focus on what you have in common with others, rather than what sets you apart. By working together and focusing on your shared goals, from joint community service projects to dialogues about important issues, you can build strong relationships with people from different faith backgrounds.
- Finally, it’s essential to remember that change takes time. Just because we don’t see eye-to-eye with someone right away doesn’t mean that there’s no hope for understanding and friendship down the road.
One of the most difficult things about interfaith work is that it can be so easy to slip into a “Us vs. Them” mentality. We can start to see people of other faiths as the enemy, or at least as different from us in a way that makes communication and collaboration difficult. This is especially true when we feel like our own beliefs are being threatened. However, it’s important to remember that we all have more in common than we realise. At our core, we all want the same things: to be happy, to be loved, and to make a difference in the world. When we can focus on our shared humanity, it becomes much easier to work together for the common good.
How you can get started in interfaith work
If you’re interested in interfaith work but don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas to get you going.
- First, find out what religious and spiritual communities are represented in your area. You may be surprised at the diversity of beliefs and practices that are represented. Once you’ve identified the communities, reach out and introduce yourself. Many faith organisations run events and activities that are open to the public, so this is a great way to get to know people from different faiths. Online is also an option, many faith groups have regular virtual services or meetups following the pandemic. So don’t be shy – get out there and say hi!
- Secondly, you could always take some time to learn about different faith traditions. This can be done by reading books or online articles, or talking to people from different faiths. It’s important to remember that there is no “right” way to learn about religion; the key is to find resources that are respectful and open-minded. A good resource I always use is the YouTube channel – Religion for Breakfast – as an accessible and entertaining way to learn new concepts.
- Finally, another way to get involved is to volunteer with an organisation that is engaged in interfaith work. This can be a great way to learn more about the issue and meet people who are passionate about it. I would personally recommend the Interfaith Network as a good starting point, or simply send an email to myself at firstname.lastname@example.org expressing your interest.
So, what can you do to help create a more harmonious world? Get involved with interfaith work. Speak up for your beliefs and values, and learn about the beliefs and values of others.
Don’t forget to contact me at email@example.com if you’d like to know more, or if you’d like to promote your interfaith event – I’d be happy to chat with you!