Faith communities

Interfaith Week 2017

17 November 2017

The Christmas adverts have been a big talking point for Britain this week, but some people have found themselves fuming at their TV screens. Much of the indignation stems from an ad showing Muslims and Sikhs celebrating Christmas. Despite the fact it’s a ‘blink and you miss it’ reference, it has managed to stir debate throughout our capital.

I’m a proud Sikh, and I’ve enjoyed a family meal at Christmas every year since I was a child. Whether we’re Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Atheist, surely all of us can unite over lunch, even if the roast potatoes get burned in the process.

The importance of coming together and learning more about each other’s faiths feels especially timely given that this week we are marking National Interfaith Week. In a city, as culturally diverse as London, opening dialogue with others is vital.

Interfaith Week is about reflecting on our commonality as well as our diversity. This week is about fostering greater interaction between people from different backgrounds and faiths so that we can open conversations. That doesn't mean we should all be the same – it means we should celebrate our differences whilst having a better appreciation of each other’s beliefs.

I know all too well what it’s like to be targeted because of the way I look and the beliefs I hold. However, our response should be love and compassion, not more anger and division. Along with my colleagues at Faiths Forum for London, our mission is to bridge that gap caused by intolerance. I’m proud to be Sikh, and I’m also proud to be a Londoner. There is no contradiction between the two.

Many people have asked me what they can do to mark Interfaith Week, it’s not too late to attend an event – check out what events are happening locally by visiting www.interfaithweek.org. Interfaith Week is also a great time to start a conversation with someone from a different faith. You may find that you share more in common than you think: from cherishing the same hopes and dreams for your children, to sharing the same taste in food and films.

Let this week be a time where we start a conversation. Invite someone for dinner. Go with them for a coffee after work. Speak to your colleagues about what they’ll be doing over Christmas. Just have a chat.