Opinion | Make a conscious effort to engage with different faiths


By Shoshana Cohen, Second Year English

There are many problems that students of faith face on campus. From Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, to balancing student life with religious values, it can be tough to be a student of faith on campus today.

However, there are many opportunities designed to help students face those challenges.

One such event is interfaith week, a week when students of all faiths and no faith at all have lots of chances to meet, to talk, to find common ground, to realise there are others facing similar issues to them, to make new friends, to do some volunteering, to socialise.

It can be tough to be a student of faith on campus today

Bristol University celebrated National Interfaith Week from 10th-17th November. Events were been organised, posters were shared on Facebook and plans were made. Yet the turnout to such events is shockingly low.

As an interfaith officer and someone involved in planning special events for interfaith week, this is incredibly frustrating. The lack of engagement is disappointing - especially at a time when dialogue between those with different beliefs (of all kinds) is becoming increasingly important. In a world that is so polarised and so focused on putting up walls between people, we all need to make an effort to engage with those who are different to us.

Turnout to such events is shockingly low

All of us – students of all faiths, and of no faiths – need to put aside our preconceptions and our opinions of those who have different beliefs to us.

It is something as simple as turning up to do some volunteering with the Sikh society. Or coming to a coffee morning hosted at the Multifaith Chaplaincy for some free food and a conversation with someone whom we wouldn’t have met otherwise. Or coming to see a film about the history of Christian-Muslim relations in Africa and learning something interesting. Or taking some time out for ourselves and coming to a meditation.

It is the chance to make new friends, to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of certain issues, to become a more educated and considerate person.

I understand that, as students, we have many demands on our time. Essays due, homework sheets to hand in, reading to complete. And social lives on top of that. But if we could all just make, as a priority, a little bit of time to engage with different faiths, if we could all just invest an hour here and there, to make an effort to befriend those who are different and who can show us a new way in which to view the world a difference would be made.

Ultimately it is us who will benefit the most.

Featured Image: University of Bristol Interfaith Forum

How do you think is the best way to engage with different beliefs?