The Friends For Change programme run by Shinnyo-en UK and St Ethelburga’s Centre For Reconciliation and Peace brings solutions to a deeply rooted problem one can experience in a hyper-modern city such as London. The hyper-diverse metropolis where the world gathers lacks unfortunately of connections between its different faith and cultural communities. Friends For Change brought one of the most notable alternatives we were given to see.
Friends For Change is a grassroots programme enabling young people from different faith and cultural background to know each other and build sustainable friendships. Each month meetings were at a different worship place as participants come from mainstream and less known faiths: Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Brahma Kumaris, Sufism, Baha’I and more… Although being from different faiths, participants practice a same prayer, that which Franz Fanon once expressed: ‘O my body, make of me always a man who questions!’ Many among the participants had their own spiritual journey, having travelled across many different spiritualities before finding their balance. They are living proof of Edgar Morin’s views on identity as an ever-changing permanent movement.
The Beyond Belief festival on May 2015 mixed successfully music, songs, storytelling, formal and informal discussions in a gripping manner; and ultimately crystallised the very essence of its existence: humanity is one and the meaning of life is to spread harmony as much as possible. For a few hours, borders did not exist and differences were only glittering colourful jewels of a same treasure.
Finally, the event is not the usual one-off interfaith gig seen in London. Participants all expressed the will to move forward more social action. This event is an accomplishment and a new beginning at the same time. It carves in the marble of our souls and to some extent the public sphere, the result of one year of friendship bonding; and from a time of interfaith dialogue, it marks the beginning of an era more of interfaith action.