Learnings From Working At An Interfaith Centre
Over the years, I have held several jobs, although I didn’t stay in any of them for very long. I had some great experiences while in each of them (and faced some great challenges too!)
One place that I worked at was a centre for interfaith dialogue and harmony. I spent several stretches of time there, over a period of more than two decades. While there were some things about the centre which I had differences with, it was a great space to learn about the ethics of inter-faith or inter-community coexistence.
There were people from all sorts of religious backgrounds at the centre Christian (Catholic and Protestant), Muslim (Sunni and Shia), Sikh and Hindu and perhaps some agnostics and atheists too! Staff, students and visitors came from different ethnic groups and countries. Closely interacting with women and men from such diverse backgrounds on a daily basis working, eating and living under the same roof was a valuable experience. It provided a wonderful opportunity to overcome negative stereotypes about communities and to learn to discover that goodness exists everywhere, even in people whose belief systems might differ considerably from one’s own. Working in this space made it possible to cement friendships across religious boundaries, enabling one to recognise the innate oneness of all human beings and the fact that all of us, without exception, are blessed, just as we are all flawed, thus growing towards a more universal vision and way of life. Living with people who are different from you in terms of religion, ethnicity and so on can be a great way to come out of one’s insularity and to learn some of their good things that you can benefit from.
Another great thing about the interfaith centre was how it began its day. We would gather in a space in the garden for a short prayer or reflection, which was led by a student, a visitor or a member of the staff. The sharing would often draw from one or the other religious tradition, or alternatively, someone would speak from his or her own personal experience. After this, when we filed out, people would exchange a few pleasantries. It was a great way to begin the day at work remembering God or sharing some positive thoughts and a smile!