Inter Faith Week 2018: Celebrating London In All Its Diverse Glory
We’re currently celebrating Inter Faith Week here at Elays.
Between 11 and 18 November, events will be held across the country that highlight the valuable contributions different faith communities make to the UK, while helping us all to understand the variety of religions that can be found in our country.
First Things First….
Let’s take a look at a few figures. According to the last census (a little while ago now, in 2011), the main religions in the UK are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism in that order. Christians make up 59.4% of the population while Muslims account for 4.4%. Almost a quarter of the country identifies as having no religion, with under 0.5% holding a variety of other faiths.
In short, we’re a pretty diverse place. And if you call London home, this is something you notice every day in our communities, streets and Boroughs.
So, why don’t we take a look at a few of these faiths? (Apologies in advance, we cannot list every religion nor can we offer every single fact about the ones we do. If you want to know more, be sure to come to an Elays event!)
Given the history of our country, very few will be surprised that Christianity is the most popular religion. It has shaped the nation’s past, carved its borders, formed its government and ruling establishment, and left indelible impressions on our culture, language, education, architecture and way of life – even for those who don’t identify with the faith.
In fact, a 2017 surveyfound that over half of Britain identifies as having no faith at all; yet we’re almost certain that the vast majority of those people still look forward to Christmas.
As do we, to be honest. No matter your faith, we all love a break from work or school.
As of the 2011 census Muslims made up almost 5% of the population, with almost 100,000 converting to the faith each year. By the time the next census is conducted in 2021, the number of Muslims in the UK will undoubtedly be much higher.
While many may think the presence of Islam in the country is a relatively new development, the influence of the faith in Britain can actually be traced back centuries. In the 16th Century, Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East were present in London, often working as merchants or diplomats.
Since then, Muslims have fought for Britain in both World Wars, established proud communities in our cities and even become the Mayor of London.
The majority of British Muslims are of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage, with most concentrated in London, Bradford and Birmingham.
For those of us who live in these places, Islamic events like Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha have become as big a part of our cultural landscape as Christmas, and a reminder of the joy, dedication and fulfilment so much of Britain achieves through faith.
Hindus in Britain can trace their origins back to former colonies of the British empire, meaning the vast majority hail from the Indian subcontinent.
The majority of British Hindus can be found in our cities and, as such, they have made a huge impression on our daily lives in terms of commerce, academia, business- and food! Indeed, much of Britain has adopted a huge aspect of Indian culture – its cuisine – as a sort of national treasure.
Every year, Hindus across the country celebrate Diwali, the festival of light that recognises the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. In fact, Leicester hosts one of the biggest Diwali festivals outside of India.
Of course, while not all Indians are Hindu and Hindus have given so much more to the country than a cuisine, we did want to mention food one last time. Indian food – or, at least a version of it – can be found in almost every part of Britain, and curry has even been characterised as the national dish.
This, we think, is an excellent example of how different cultures complement one another; and how people are at their best when they embrace something they could’ve just as easily rejected as ‘other’. An important thing to remember during Inter Faith Week if you ask us.
Ultimately, no matter your faith or lack thereof, all of us, whether we live in London or elsewhere, want to do right by others, care for those we love and live by the morals that guide us. Diversity provides our society with numerous benefits, and these faiths – and plenty more- form part of Britain’s rich cultural tapestry. Happy Inter Faith Week!
Inter Faith Week runs 11-18 November. For more information, check out the website.