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Interfaith

Nation PF Interfaith Work

There is currently an active Pagan community involved within Interfaith. For more information about interfaith please read the article below 'Inter-Faith Activity and Paganism. To find our more about it within Norfolk, please contact our regional interfaith officer. We have listed local Interfaith groups and contacts at the bottom of this page. 

NATIONAL INTERFAITH NEWS



Inter-Faith Activity and Paganism

Chris Wood
Chair of Norwich InterFaith Link
August 2016

Inter-faith is about people of different backgrounds talking. We attempt to find common ground and understand our differences. It is important for Paganism, and Paganism is important for it.

There are inter-faith groups in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Wisbech and Cambridge, as well as the long-standing Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource, now devolved to groups in Lowestoft, Ipswich and Bury. In addition, there is the East of England Faiths Agency, which provides information and education in religious diversity. Nationally, the Inter-Faith Network for the UK brings together national faith representative bodies (including the Pagan Federation) and local inter-faith groups.

Inter-faith is also an opportunity to help civic society understand religious perspectives and minority religions better. There is currently a ‘Faith Literacy’ initiative to this end at the University of East Anglia.

Inter-faith can be an opportunity to stand together against discrimination, but many people of ‘established’ faiths, are politically conservative (small ‘c’). In addition, representatives of immigrant communities often, understandably, do not want to be seen to be rocking the boat. The concept of ‘faith’ itself can of course be an issue, and the meanings of ‘faith’ and ‘religion’ vary from person to person.

There are many faith groups in Norfolk, some with a long history. There was a Jewish community in Norwich by 1100 (although atrociously treated). Today, people coming to inter-faith meetings in Norfolk include Christians (Anglican, Catholic, Non-Conformist, Mormon), Quakers, Unitarians, Jews, Muslims, Baha’is, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Brahma Kumaris, Theosophists and Humanists, as well as Pagans, and Jains, Taoists and Zoroastrians were reported by the last census.

The Unitarian congregation in Norwich is historically important in that it has included people who brought about key changes in the political recognition of religious diversity in Britain. Unitarians are possibly even more diverse in their beliefs than Pagans, and indeed some of them are Pagans too, as are some Quakers. People who profess dual-faith, spiritual seekers and agnostics are key to inter-faith; it is about mutual respect and understanding between people, not monolithic religious organisations signing formal memoranda. 

What does Inter-Faith give Paganism?

Inter-faith gives us opportunities to be seen as a serious faith group, which is important for respect. Through inter-faith networks, Norfolk Pagans were invited to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Garden Party at Sandringham in 2002, involved in the ‘Art of Faith’ exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery in 2010, asked to speak at various functions over the years, and had a noteworthy presence in the United Nations 60th Anniversary Inter-Faith Celebration at Norwich Anglican Cathedral in 2005 (the first public performance of the Streams of Wisdom, as seen in the Harvest Moon opening ritual in 2013). All of this is in addition to the opportunity simply to meet and talk to people of other faiths. 

Inter-faith gives us a direct understanding of the common ground that exists with other religions. For example, we all have sacred places and experience sanctity, and most understand pilgrimage to those sacred places. We all make use of – and create – sacred space, have a relationship with something spiritual, beyond the mundane, and seek spiritual development. We all have strong ethics – even if we disagree on moral codes! We all seek to make our lives and those of others better – whether by physical action, prayer or magic. And we have all, as religious communities, faced discrimination – even Christians in a secular society.

I had the opportunity recently to give a few words of summation after a talk by Robert Harrap, the UK General Director of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist organisation. It was an opportunity to emphasise the resonances in what he had said with inter-faith work (the importance of dialogue and that everyone has the potential for illumination) and specifically with Paganism. His words on inter-connectedness described what we might call the Web of Wyrd beautifully. Furthermore, his discussion on the potential for people to cause change was, in our terms, all about magic and the necessity for belief in the magic for it to work. It is such moments of resonance that, I feel, are the most exciting thing about inter-faith.

What does Paganism bring to Inter-Faith?

Paganism brings a very different, and diverse, perspective to inter-faith: polytheist, pantheist, politically aware, environmentally conscious, and capable of believing more than one thing at the same time. For instance we can see both sides of issues such as peace and conflict, whereas some faiths (seen in aggregate) preach peace and practise war…
At the same time, we are prepared to stand our ground where appropriate. We can be relied upon to question suggestions for shared ‘worship’ (of whom or what after all?). In general, as people who are conscious of being outsiders (religiously and, for a fair number of us, politically) and who tend to venerate the Trickster in all His forms more than most religions, we can be the Trickster in a way which moves inter-faith debates forward, whilst gaining respect for being able, diplomatically, to see beyond conventional boundaries. 


Regional Interfaith Groups

The following are a list of Interfaith bodies that fall within the PF region of Norfolk and the Pagan Federation are involved in. If you would like to find out more about one of them, then please contact the Pagan Liaison.

   Norwich Inferfaith Link
Location: Norwich

Website



  Lowestoft Interfaith
Location: Lowesoft