Mauricio Silva, Columban Interreligious Dialogue Coordinator is pleased to have co-ordinated this year’s Faith Guiding course on behalf of the Faith Encounter Programme and conducted the awards ceremony via Zoom on Monday evening.
The course is designed to train people from various religious traditions to become guides in their local places of worship across the West Midlands. Participants were taught how to lead high quality educational trips which aims to create better awareness of different faith traditions and successfully engage collaboratively with diverse faith communities in their local communities.
Course participant and Columban Lay Missionary Sophia explains, “Normally, participants would attend the course in person but due to the Covid pandemic, this year’s Faith Guiding course could again only be done online. Various religious groups came and worked together to develop understanding of people with and without a religious faith. We learnt about one another’s beliefs that aimed to bring unity and harmony across the multi-faith West Midlands.”
“This year, there were 11 participants with a mixture of beliefs in Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Sikh. I had found it a delightful experience to take part in this faith guiding course even though it was a bit daunting when things seemed unfamiliar in the beginning. The fact that there was little known about another person’s faith, yet so much to learn and grasp, had an intriguing challenge for me.”
“Beforehand I thought I knew much about my own faith and other religions, but I was wrong. I have since realised that there is so much to learn from others. For example, while Christians believe that life starts after death, our Hindu brothers and sisters believe in incarnation. Despite the differences, we find our faith or way of life grounded in our places of worship. I was humbled to witness how each religious group reveres to live their daily life according to the good values and teachings so as to achieve peace and love in the community. The generous services each group contributed makes the society an ever more welcoming place to live in. It feels like even though we are different, we are all connected in one way or another through shared beliefs and services to attain the common good of the wider society.”
Sophia adds, “Apart from learning about the multi-faith cultures, I have also learnt to present my own faith in a meaningful and informative way. One of the biggest rewards I have received from this course is to come to know my own faith in a deeper sense and how I could relate myself to others in an open dialogue. I was reminded to humbly and obediently search for objective truth and respect freedom that moves towards peacebuilding.”
“Throughout this short journey of being with each other in the multi-faith context, I felt the presence of God in each and everyone of us in a very concrete and pragmatic way. Each religion has brought so much colour, beauty, and richness to life. While the tradition and the life lived out by the faithful has enriched their own kind to the fullest, they have also complemented the others in many aspects of life. God is indeed omnipresent in the very heart of each individual, family and community.”
Sophia was joined by fellow Lay Missionary Teresa Chuah Hui-Ling on the Faith Guiding course. The two were assigned to Britain last Autumn and have fully immersed themselves in various ministries across Birmingham including ‘Fatima House’ a partnership project with Fr. Hudson’s Care which provides accommodation for female asylum seekers.
Providing her own reflection of the course, Teresa explains, “This is the first time I have participated in a course with a group of people from different faith and cultural backgrounds in which participants have been asked to share information about their faiths. This opportunity has made me realize and appreciate the beauty of diversity that I encounter in Birmingham. I had never seen a city so diverse in my life.”
“I found the course very intense and somewhat challenging but also fruitful for my missionary journey. I had a chance to learn about other people’s faith and also how to present my own faith to others. When presenting my faith to others I have learnt how to genuinely offer an understanding of my Christian beliefs. I have learnt to avoid giving others the wrong impression, that I am trying to convert them or that I am preaching to them even though I am very proud of to be a Catholic and share with others that my God is good.”
She adds, “As result of the course I am much more aware of how to respect other people’s beliefs and treasure the beauty of their faith and differences. I have learned skills and gained experiences which have made me more sensitive to those who have difficulty in learning new skills. I am grateful of the interaction with the group and, especially those from whom I asked for help. They were always willing to offer support and advice when I humbly asked. I gained new friendships, I got to know my parish better, its history and the people I encounter there.”