Dialogue Knowledge Hub
Activity: Structure and Needs
The practice of interfaith prayer is relatively easy to organize. Prayers can be proposed to the global community via hashtags, pictures, or posts online. Nevertheless, prayers can also be shared with a local community via gatherings. The gatherings can also take place in people’s neighborhoods. Individuals can invite their neighbors to their homes to propose a prayer, a song or a text on a common issue. A common prayer can also be proposed by an interfaith organization or by a religious community, which invites people from all faiths to pray on a common issue.
When it comes to the death of an important religious leader, other religious communities can show their support by hosting their own ceremonies, in conjunction with ceremonies organized by the mourning community. Remembrance ceremonies are organized in places of worship, people from all faiths are invited to join in grieving. Both the community of the deceased and the community related to the sacred space where the ceremony takes place are invited to pray together for the dead.
Services can also be conducted in a common language by the spiritual leader of the parish where the event is hosted, which would promote unity. Many denominations would attend and should have the freedom to practice as they like. The prayers take place as regularly as needed by the faith community in question. Sub-activities such as a choir can also be put in place to reinforce the harmony between the worshippers.
Other forms of interfaith prayer would involve an organization choosing a topic, such as social justice, spirituality, or prophecy, then inviting participants to read selected passages and verses together. Reading and working on texts are not compulsory to attend the meetings, for a facilitator would be present to introduce the scriptures. Participants discuss the texts and their thoughts, and often arrive to the conclusion that there are many similarities between religious scriptures. To organize such an event, the organization should provide a room for the attendees to gather. They should also partner with local religious communities and invite religious leaders to share their expertise on the given topic. Inviting individuals from different faiths is very important to have a personal insight on how people live the scriptures in their daily lives.
Creating an interfaith chaplaincy or prayer space is easy for it only requires a room, which has to be neutral in order for all students to feel comfortable. The room should not represent one particular faith or religion through its decorations and furniture. Chairs, carpets, and pillows, should be available to all people. One could add assign post indicating the direction towards Mecca, Jerusalem, etc. Holy books as well as other spiritual books should be available for all to read. If one wishes to implement this initiative in their workplace/ university, one must make sure to have the institution in question on board.
Objectives: Impact and Focus
The aim of this practice is to connect people spiritually. It arouses interreligious compassion and connection through prayers. It also points out that different religions are not sources of conflict but sources of peace and active coexistence. Therefore believers from different religions show that they can act together with a common goal. Usually this kind of initiative is launched when there is a form of religious conflict, and is also useful in combating misconceptions and stereotypes. This initiative focuses on people of different faiths who want to support each other’s faiths and interreligious issues. When this activity is organized by a religious community or by an interfaith organization, it creates interfaith social cohesion, fosSVters better understanding and cultivates a more peaceful relationship between different religious groups.
Moreover, grieving together in solidarity shows that different communities can recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of an individual of a different faith, and can be supportive of others during a difficult time. Therefore, it fosters links between communities, and invites believers to pray in holy places other than their own and with people from a different religion.
The practice of hosting a parish with a common language allows minority denominations of the same religion to unite around their common beliefs with their fellows. Believers are invited to dialogue and exchange each other’s ideas. Common prayer allow them to unite in their differences and in their similarities This activity further enhances each believer's knowledge of their own religion by broadening their perspective, and increasing awareness of other ways of practice. One financial benefit of this activity is the reduced financial costs of hosting religious services, since it decreases the number of religious leaders and religious places needed for a large group of people.
Reflecting on scriptures tackles the lack of knowledge and the stereotypes people may have about their own and other religions. This practice increases people’s awareness of different religious thought and practices. Acknowledging one another’s religion helps to stamp out prejudices. This workshop also pushes the participants to reflect, question and go deeper into the understanding of their own faith. Creating an interfaith place of prayer engages interfaith dialogue to promote coexistence between religions. It could be replicated in multicultural societies where there are no interfaith relations. The idea is to demonstrate that despite different religious backgrounds and faiths, individuals are still able to gather and engage in a discourse. This initiative can also be carried out in universities or institutions where a room for prayers and spirituality is not available for students to practice their faiths. Thus, it gives students the opportunity to feel at home on their campus and a chance to connect with people from all communities, with similar or different beliefs. Meeting someone after sharing a spiritual moment of prayer gives the individuals in question a deep initial connection to build relationships.
Field Data: Examples and Sources (Activity – Organisation – Location)
1.) Adyan – Adyan – Beirut, Lebanon
Adyan is one of many institutions that promotes common prayers. They organize a prayer network, with each event focusing on a different concepts or issues, such as environmental awareness or the Syrian crisis, etc. One of their first worldwide prayers was after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Recently, a common prayer call was launched for the November 13, 2015 terrorist attack in Paris with the hashtag “#PrayForParis.” Many organizations regularly organize common prayers such as Prayer Service International, and Interfaith Mission Service. They communicate through their websites or through social networks in order to inspire people to pray on different issues with an interreligious purpose.
2.) Interfaith Funeral Prayer – Great Synagogue of Poland – Warsaw, Poland
On the occasion of the death of John Paul II, the Great Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Schudrich, organized a memorial service in his synagogue because he wanted to honour the open-mindedness and the spirituality of the former Pope. On the day of the ceremony, the synagogue was full like never before. It was so crowded that people had to pray in the streets. Christians and Jews prayed together in a Jewish temple, each with their own practices. Christians going to a synagogue to honour the late John Paul II was seen as a sign of acceptance of the Polish Jewish community by the broader Polish society.
3.) One Language One Prayer – Francophone Parish of Moscow – Moscow, Russia
The Francophone Parish of Moscow unites Christians belonging to the Catholic and Protestant denominations from Madagascar and Polynesia. The Francophone Parish was created due to a lack of resources for non-Orthodox Christians in Russia who experience the preeminent position of the Orthodox faith. Young people who come to study in Russia now have a place to meet people who speak the same language, and practice the same religion, despite being from another culture or another faith. They also come together through choirs or by giving presentations for the broader public, sometimes even in Orthodox Churches.
4.) Scripture Reflection – Society of Christians and Jews – International Council of Christian and Jews – Prague, Czech Republic
The Society of Christian and Jews in Czech Republic promotes a dialogue that transcends religions, and is intercultural. This organization organizes also lectures and exhibitions. The main goal of this society is to promote interfaith relations between Christians and Jews, and with other religious communities. It is part of the ICCJ (International Council of Christian and Jews) network, which is composed of 40 international organizations. With the goal of promoting interfaith relations and respect, the Society of Christians and Jews organizes events twice a year with an average group of twenty participants. Each of the participants is notified one month before the start of the event. Mainly the members of the Christian and the Jewish community participate with the help of religious dignitaries.
5.) Interfaith Place of Prayer – The Interfaith Ashram – Greater Naida, India
The Interfaith Ashram (spiritual centre) unites people of all faiths. Hindus, Buddhist and Jains come to this place of worship to meet each other and pray. Over the years it has become a centre for interfaith celebrations and activity. The centre was constructed in collaboration with all represented religious communities in order to build worship "stands" in accordance with the regulations of each faith. Religious communities participated in raising funds to finance the construction of the building. The interfaith temple is constructed in a circular way, each portion of the circle constituting a "stand" for a different religion. Believers of all faiths can come and go freely in this place of worship, without restrictions on how to dress, pray or practice.