SGI-Ireland Participates in Dublin City Interfaith Forum
The Dublin City Interfaith Forum hosted its first interfaith workshop entitled "Exploring Interfaith Connections" on June 29. Held in the City Council's Civic Offices in Dublin's city center, built on the historic site of the ancient city wall, it was attended by representatives of many different faiths. Four members of SGI-Ireland were among the 50 or so participants.
SGI-Ireland Young Women's leader, Ms. Sinéad Lynch, who became chairperson of the Forum at its launch in January 2012, welcomed the participants. She explained that the Forum, which officially comprises 23 people from seven different faith traditions, exists to ensure that faith groups are represented accurately and fairly in education, to challenge injustice, and to create the conditions to enable all to feel safe and welcome and be able to participate fully in society.
In his opening speech, Most Reverend Dr. Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, emphasized the importance of forward preparation rather than waiting for a crisis to occur, as building a "solidarity of friendship" amongst the different faith groups will provide a safeguard against community tensions being manipulated for political ends.
He stressed the importance of dialogue, not as an intellectual or literary exercise, but as sharing on the level of life, focusing on building trust and affection, hospitality and good will. He asked that all of us genuinely listen to each other, and avoid talking up a best caricature of oneself over the worst caricature of the other, and that we need to give others the opportunity to speak freely with us. He asked us to explore and discover what it is that we can all do together in this "angry post-theocratic State."
A panel discussion followed, with personal experiences of practicing their faiths given by members of the Muslim (Sufi), Bahá'í and Buddhist (Triratna) communities. After lunch, more in-depth presentations were given by representatives of the Jewish, Sikh and Hindu faiths, outlining the core tenets of their beliefs. Later, group discussions were held to explore topics such as how to influence public policy, and practical ways to work together on social and cultural projects at the grassroots level.
It became apparent as the day progressed that while there were real differences between faiths, and it was important to acknowledge and accept this, what the participants had in common far outweighed those differences. It was said repeatedly that when people genuinely engage with their own religion, a real concern for the welfare and happiness of others is a natural outcome. A key role of all religions is that of serving others.
Commenting on the Forum, SGI-Ireland National Advisor Máirín Ní Bhriain said, "The event was an historic milestone in the history of Dublin, with far-reaching repercussions for the whole country. It was imbued with a sense of human warmth and openness, enquiry, real listening and sharing--a true model of inter-faith respect and harmony."
The Irish Council of Churches and Dublin City Council initiated this project with funding from the European Integration Fund.
[Adapted from a report by Máirín Ní Bhriain, SGI-Ireland National Advisor, photos courtesy Adrian Cristea and Mervyn McCullagh/ICC]