I’ve just returned from the Chaplaincy’s Multi-faith Public Conversation on the subject ‘The Richness of Diversity’. As a humanist and an atheist it can be difficult to go to such events, especially when they’re entitled ‘Multi-Faith’, but it’s often an interesting experience and it’s important that as a society we build up relations with other societies based at the Chaplaincy. That’s something we don’t do nearly enough, in fact I was sitting next to a couple of the Vedics who said they noticed we weren’t there at the interfaith dialogue (although I’m sure Greg went along – Stuart and I were both working). I do intend to go to a couple of the CU meetings when I’m not working in the next few weeks but I’ll have to see what’s happening.
In any case I was a little disappointed. Of course with such a short space of time to discuss such a vague and in many ways diverse topic, it’s difficult to come up with a satisfying response, and I’m not sure that was the intention, to get a response, that is. For some time the three speakers (whose names I’m afraid I don’t remember – it was a Rabbi, a Bishop and a representative from the British Muslim Council) spoke about why diversity was important and what kinds of diversity there are, which I think is something we all know. In many ways it was something of a ramble. The Bishop made some attempt to explain why there is so often an intolerance of diversity, stemming from a fear of losing their religious identity, as well as economic fears like “they’re taking our jobs and our benefits”, which made the conversation a bit more dynamic, and only the Rabbi had the balls to come out and say that at the end of the day if you believe your particular faith position is correct and someone else’s isn’t, you cannot embrace diversity in the way that people had been talking about.
Reflecting back, the opinions expressed were so watered down that they were in their lowest common form which sounded essentially like humanism. Several comments were passed like “flowers are each beautiful in their own way, but they’re most beautiful when they’re put together”, and even a saying used by the HSS, “we’re a’ Jock Tamson’s Bairns” (the Bishop said in that case, Jock has been doing a bit of globetrotting), and the last sentiment on the issue came from a woman sitting at the back who said that if we want to be truly tolerant, we have to approach the table as human beings. We’re people first above all. I think that’s a truly admirable sentiment and one I’ve used before, but mainly when talking about the Scout movement.
Anyway, frustrating but intriguing, I’m glad I went.