An account by Mary McKenna
Following the formal SUA Annual General Meeting there was lunch followed a workshop on Diversity in Faith led by Farkhanda Chaudry. Some people wonder about the role of the SUA for Unitarians in Scotland. By organising this workshop the SUA is clearly signalling the way forward by inviting such an inspiring and forward thinking speaker to lead the session.
Farkhanda gave us an introductory taster to a 5 day course on Diversity in Faith. There were about twenty of us and she, gently and respectfully, created space for discussion in small groups of the richness and the challenges facing us in our increasingly diverse secular society.
There were two ministers in my group who were, of course, much more knowledgeable about world religions than the rest of us. They were able to sort the emergence of different religious chronologically from ancient Paganism to most recent theological approach Humanism, nevertheless, they too were unsure of Laïcité. We then had to identify key principles of belief, prophets, places of worship and religious icons.
Farkhandra was able to extend our knowledge, add a different perspective and stretch our understanding of the issues underlying some of the current challenges in society. Her work highlighted that even in our liberal religious community we have much to learn. This was illustrated in her input on Laïcité This secular movement developed in France to discourage religious involvement in the State. However noble its intent, as a consequence of this movement, religious and racial tensions in France has been exacerbated in recent years, as exemplified in the banning of the burka in schools and public spaces, leaving Muslims feeling alienated and outsiders in their own home country.
Farkhandra left us wanting to learn more, to understand the challenges facing others and to hear their perspectives. As Unitarians we like to consider we are respectful of other religious faiths, already equipped to live in a diverse multi-cultural society in the 21st Century. It is good to be challenged from our complacency. Thank you Farkhandra and thank you to the SUA.