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Women’s Inter Faith Initiatives in the UK: A Survey – Inter Faith Network

June 21, 2017

WIFAIn May 2006, the Inter Faith Network commissioned Dr Fatheena Mubarak to understake a short research project looking at the pattern of women’s inter faith initatives in the UK.

The report highlights good practice and was developed with the aim of encouraging further such initiatives.

Six broad types of women’s inter faith initiatives emerge from the questionnaire returns: free standing inter faith initiatives that have been set up by women with activities either for women only or for women and men; women’s inter faith initiatives that are a part of a larger inter faith organisation; women’s inter faith initiatives that are a part of a larger single faith organisation or initiative; women’s inter faith initiatives that are a part of a secular organisation; women’s initiatives that are not specifically inter faith in their aims; and inter faith initiatives for girls and young women within secondary and higher education.

“We are an ecumenical discussion group in Dorking, representing 6 different Christian denominations. We have been running for about 15 years and meet monthly in each other’s homes, where we share our responses to a variety of books of a spiritual nature. An article “Don’t blame my religion” that appeared in the Dorking Advertiser on July 14th 2005, after the London bombings, prompted us to seek out and eventually make contact with the local Muslim woman who wrote the article. In the words of the report we later submitted to the local press, we “wanted to meet with local Muslim women to offer them the same friendship and understanding that we had developed within our Group.” The Muslim woman and two of her friends gladly accepted our invitation to a simple lunch in the Quaker Meeting House in November 2005. This proved a very happy occasion and since then the Muslim women have come along to one of our discussion group sessions and talked to us about their lives as Muslim wives and mothers. We all agreed to continue to meet up at regular intervals to enable us to improve our understanding of each other’s faiths.”

Some respondents highlight the particular qualities they believe women possess that encourage inter faith work. These qualities were described as sociability; hospitability; ability to empathise with others; sensitivity; non-adversarial/non-confrontational approach to solution finding; good listening skills; informality; and ability to create a co-operative atmosphere. Although many men are involved in inter faith activity, some respondents saw men as being less flexible, more concerned with dogma and structure and less sensitive to the needs of others.

“Not enough women do participate in inter faith activities. I think this is because not enough women are in leadership positions in many faith traditions. Of course, women’s involvement is rising, but a much bigger voice needs to be given to them in this context.”

Muslims account for by far the largest group involved.

women from Christian backgrounds involved in inter faith activity had a tendency to be older, generally over 45 years, while women from Muslim backgrounds involved in their inter faith activity were generally younger (between 20 and 40 years).  Explanations for this included availability of time for younger and older women, the proportion of younger and older people in different communities and the ability to speak English among people from different communities.

half of the respondents described their initiatives as informal in structure and over half of the initiatives had no paid staff.

Meals are the most common activity.

Shared meditation happens. So do residential weekends.

The report is online here

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