Celebrating Inter Faith Week 2021

Inter Faith Week

As part of the ongoing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work at Health Innovation Manchester, the organisation is celebrating Inter Faith Week between Sunday 14th November to Sunday 21st November.

As part of this, Cath Barrow, Senior Programme Development Lead, Portfolio Management Office and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Health Innovation Manchester has written a blog, sharing her thoughts on the week-long celebration of different faith communities in the UK, and to increase the awareness and an understanding of different beliefs between religious and non-religious communities across the country.

This week is Inter Faith week and as an organisation who serves the 2.8 million citizens of Greater Manchester, it has had me pondering just how many faiths and beliefs there are across our footprint and how they interact.

This week is all about raising awareness about the diversity of the faith communities in the UK, and how we can celebrate their contribution to society.  The diversity of our communities and their faiths and beliefs is part of Greater Manchester’s DNA. Different faiths work across GM to build good relationships and work in partnership to celebrate diversity and enable greater interaction between people of different backgrounds to help develop integrated and neighbourly communities.

I was brought up in a strong Catholic household, where church wasn’t an ask, it was a must and although it sometimes felt like a chore when I wanted to stay at home, thinking back it was an opportunity for self-reflection and inner peace.  When I go to church now, those things are still really important to me, but I often think about other religions and wonder if their faith makes them feel the same way?  So, this week I’ll be taking time to visit some non-christian places of worship and cultural assets to learn a little bit more about the faith of my neighbours and, in the mix, learn the history behind religious artifacts and what they symbolise.

Working at Health Innovation Manchester, I’ve met a lot of people, some who I work with and others who I interact with in our communities, and faith and belief has never really factored into any of our conversations, and you may ask “why should it”? Well, to me learning about different faiths and beliefs, builds understanding and strengthens knowledge which can aid us in our work by providing us with an opportunity to co-create solutions that are acceptable to and work for everyone as well as working in partnership with faith leaders to help us get key and important messages across to communities to support people with their health needs.

According to the most recent UK census, 37.5 million follow a Christian faith which is roughly 60% of the UK’s population.  Following this, Islam is the next most popular religion with a 2.5 million following (4.5% of the population) and there are strong followings for Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism which makes the UK a truly multicultural society.

It’s also important to note that around 26% of the population don’t subscribe to a religious belief but that shouldn’t be a barrier to understanding tolerance between those with faith and those without.  Indeed, nearly 400,000 people in the UK self-identify with following the Jedi faith!  When we interact with people through our work at Health Innovation Manchestrer, we accept people for who they are and treat and talk to them as equals.

Inter Faith week starts on Remembrance Sunday to encourage people to remember together the service of people of all faiths and non-faiths and to reflect and consider how to create a peaceful and harmonious world.  The week ends on Mitzvah Day, a Jewish-led day of social action which strongly encourages inter faith voluntary activities.  So, whether you are Christian, Muslim, religious or non-religious (or indeed Jedi), perhaps this week we can debate, learn, contribute to, encourage, and celebrate our GM melting pot of diverse communities.

More information on Inter Faith week can be found here.

To find out more about Health Innovation Manchester’s ongoing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work, please click here.

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