Running interfaith events can, like all other events, be both challenging and extremely rewarding. Planning interfaith events takes time and effort, especially because it’s important to be aware of, and sensitive to, the religious requirements of those participating. However, it is very satisfying when all the elements of an event come together and the event runs smoothly.
The first thing to decide when planning an interfaith event is what the goal of the event should be. Interfaith work can take on many forms; events can range from social, to volunteering, to educational. It is important to have this in mind when planning the details of the event - be it a speaker, a coffee morning, scriptural reasoning, a pot luck dinner, a panel or a debate. Each of these types of events, with different aims, will require different types of spaces and different times.
It is best to try and plan interfaith events in conjunction with, or at least in consultation with, other faith societies. Certain events may be aimed at two or three specific faiths, but it is important to open up events to people from as many faiths as possible. Planning and running events with other societies helps encourage more people to come, and allows everyone to feel comfortable. It is also important to open up events to those of no faith. Interfaith events should foster and encourage relationships between those with different perspectives – including both those of different faiths and those with no faith.
It is also important to remember that many faiths promote similar ideals of charity, giving and kindness. This means that social action projects and events with an element of volunteering can be really successful. Another great focus for interfaith events is religious festivals. Events centring around a festival can be both social and educational, allowing people to meet and come together, whilst also teaching about different religious festivals and celebrations.
On university campuses, it can be quite difficult to encourage people to get involved in interfaith events. It is absolutely key to be as creative as possible, to advertise insistently, to invite as many people as possible and to plan a range of events throughout the year to appeal to different people. But is also important to remember that the success of an event is not solely dependent on how many people show up. Even if just one person learns something new, even if just one stereotype is dispelled, even if just one new friendship is made, your event has been a success.