Faith-based universities must work together to promote interfaith respect

Faith-based universities must work together to promote interfaith respect

Published on 02 February 2017

Senior academics and administrators from faith-based universities came together this week to highlight the importance of working together to promote interfaith respect across the Commonwealth.

A three-day ACU seminar brought together 21 representatives of Commonwealth universities – a majority of which have a faith mission or inhabit strong faith contexts – to share their experience of best practice in promoting respect among their staff, students, and communities.

The event saw delegates from ACU member institutions in nine countries (Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United Kingdom) debate the following issues at a round table:

  • Creating an interfaith environment (physical and intellectual)
  • Religion in the curriculum; the use of comparative material, core modules, and insights into other religions
  • Social and international development issues as a means of developing respect
  • Moral and personal development
  • Harnessing staff and students through extracurricular activity
  • The potential for stronger links between institutions
  • The essence/ethos of the university

Identifying common values

Discussions throughout the three days highlighted values that cut across all the discussion topics, including: appreciation of all faiths’ differences and similarities, the common goal of transforming individuals into better citizens through education (including extracurricular activity), the importance of working together to promote the benefits of interfaith collaboration, and senior staff leading by example.

The interactive and inclusive nature of the event was praised by delegates, who came away having formed friendships and ideas for academic and extracurricular collaboration across faiths and continents.

Hosted by Liverpool Hope University, UK, the seminar titled ‘The role of faith-based universities in promoting respect’ took place from 30 January to 1 February 2017. It was part of a wider exercise led by the ACU to work with its diverse membership to develop practical means of promoting respect, understanding, and objectivity among university staff and students.

The event was organised by the ACU, with sponsorship from Liverpool Hope University and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Faith seminar delegates

Nurturing the next generation

The Rt Hon Baroness Scotland QC gave the keynote speech on Monday 30 January, where she highlighted the role that faith-based universities have to play in countering extremism.

Baroness Scotland stressed that 60% of the 2.4 billion people living in the Commonwealth are under the age of 30, representing a huge resource which, if well motivated, well taught, and well nurtured, will give us a safe and peaceful world.

‘Many of you in this room are responsible for the transmission of that education and for that nurturing, and that’s why I wish to thank you for what you are doing to nurture that next generation,’ she said.

Baroness Scotland called for practical action from university leaders in promoting respect for different faiths, and said that understanding between faiths is possible ‘by focusing on the 99.9% that joins us, not the 0.1% that separates us’. You can watch the speech in full here.

Prof Wood, Baroness Scotland, Prof Pillay

Next steps

The ACU will publish a report in March 2017, which will cover the emerging shared values, key messages from the seminar, and next steps – including drafting a pledge between participating universities to abide by shared values, to be endorsed later by other institutions; research projects into best practice; and interfaith exchange programmes for staff and students.

We will also shortly be publishing an online catalogue of practical initiatives taken by universities to promote interfaith respect. Watch this space!

Further details