SGI-UK facilitates a 3 faiths community project.
Responding to the current issues in UK society of Islamaphobia, the polarisation between Christianity and Islam and the tensions between white and black people, which for many centuries in the UK has expressed itself as racism, SGI-UK embarked upon a project that sought to create a platform of friendship based upon true humanistic dialogue, to facilitate forging of bonds of trust at the deepest level between people of different faiths.
Twenty-four young Muslims, Black Christians and SGI Buddhists from South London embarked on an innovative and dynamic project which was launched at the Tooting Islamic Centre and Mosque, South London, aimed at creating greater understanding and friendship between religious communities.
The project brought together young people aged 18-26 from the three faith groups who, through dialogue and workshops, created bonds of friendship that transformed their lives.
Initiated by SGI-UK the ‘Three Faiths Community Project’ was supported by a grant from the Home Office Government Department under its ‘Community Cohesion’ programme. It was one of around twenty projects taking place around the country which, for the most part, involved Muslim and Christian participants. The South London project with its partnering of Buddhists together with Abrahamic traditions had been undertaken after almost two years of preparation. The aim was to develop a respectful framework in which young people can transcend differences, build upon shared understandings and create a new and dynamic active citizenship.
At the launch, local MP Sadiq Khan (a Muslim MP) quoted a passage from the President of SGI, Daisaku Ikeda:
"Bridges towards an indestructible peace for humankind can only be built by fostering people and by forging strong ties between them, their hearts and minds. And that process is, by its very nature, a gradual, grassroots effort. We cannot expect quick results. We must be committed to it for the long term."
The participants met regularly for 6 months on a programme of workshops that included reflections on themselves, their backgrounds and the nature of their faith. They also examined and reflected upon themselves in terms of their personal identity, gender and race. They explored some key tenets of their faiths that inspired and motivated the participants to develop their altruism amongst their families and communities and beyond. They challenged each other around how they perceived other faiths, which allowed them to address stereotypes and assumptions they had about each other, this enabled them to develop joint visions of how to transform their communities, peers, workplaces and colleges. Sessions were interactive and required the participants to work on tasks together.
Three groups from all faiths designed and delivered workshops of their learning and experience to fifteen young people from each faith at their respective centres; the Mosque, the Church and the SGI community centre. The young people attending the workshops commented how impressed they were about the unity, friendship and depth of learning they were able to convey.
The Government Minister Tony McNulty MP, who was responsible for policing and community safety, and the local MP Sadiq Khan attended one of these workshops. They were both inspired and praised the work of the young participants for committing to the project and supported their strong desire to make positive changes within their local communities.
The sessions offered a great challenge to all the participants as they had to reflect upon and challenge some deeply-held beliefs. This challenge was necessary so that they could open up and build relationships that transcended the differences they had with each other and support them in being able to draw upon the noblest of values that are at the heart of their religious beliefs and traditions.
The final aspect of the project was a conference held at the SGI South London Centre, organised by the group, to open up further discussion on three themes: young people and crime; young people, schooling and education; and community cohesion. The group have developed a strong passion and desire to open up dialogue with key professionals responsible for delivering support services in these areas. This conference was attended and supported by Sadiq Khan MP and attended by 90 professionals and members from the three faith communities.