An interfaith group is working to end prejudice in the city by “finding commonalities” between religions.
Members of Faith and Belief (FaB) Dundee are working to promote inclusion by creating spaces and activities where people can learn about different faiths within the community.
Working with people of all faiths and beliefs across Tayside, their aim is to break down barriers by identifying and working towards common causes and goals. The group are supported by Interfaith Scotland.
The board of trustees at FaB are made up of multiple different religions and beliefs. There are representatives from Christian, Buddhist, Baha’i, Quaker, Family Federation, Humanist and Pagan beliefs, who are all volunteers.
Vice chairwoman, Carrie Varjavandi, added that FaB Dundee is presently without a Muslim representative on the Board, but that is only temporary, due to changes in personal circumstances.
She added: “We also hope to involve more people from Jewish, Hindu and Sikh faiths, so we can be truly representative of the diversity of belief that exists in the city.”
Carrie said the group creates dialogues between people of diverse faiths and beliefs.
She added: “We work to find our commonalities but also enjoy our differences. This helps reduce barriers that may exist between different religions and belief traditions.
“We help by creating spaces where anyone can learn about diverse faith and belief communities living locally.”
Chairman Gordon Sharp added: “We are a small group for sure, but to promote one human family and inclusion seems very, very important in our world.”
How FaB promote tolerance
FaB Dundee had been liaising with Dundee Schools Education Department to organise an interfaith panel, where students could ask panel members questions about their beliefs, when the pandemic took hold and put a stop to engaging with schools.
The group maintains contact with Dundee Education Department in the hope that the plans for an interfaith panel will come to fruition in the coming year.
However, along with the group’s meetings, the pandemic has put a stop to school visits for the moment.
During the pandemic, meetings continued to be held through Zoom where members discussed topics such as common queries about certain beliefs, as well as responses to topics such as terrorism and climate change.
On Saturday, the group celebrated a return to face-to-face meetings being held outdoors with a pilgrimage across the city.
Pilgrimage across Dundee
It was the first physical meeting the group have been able to have since the start of lockdown in March 2020.
A group of around 20 people took part in the walk from the Central Mosque in Milne Street and finished at the Maggie’s Centre at Ninewells, stopping at places of worship along the way.
During the pilgrimage participants stopped at the Carbon Saving Project initiated by the Gate Church followed by the Yusuf Youth Initiative Community Garden at Victoria Park.
There they learned from development officers about the valuable work they do to reverse climate change.
Once at the Maggie’s Centre, participants learned about the work to support people diagnosed with cancer and their families, and also about the Labyrinth, a maze-like walk which provides a special place for individual reflection.
Gordon added: “For my part, it felt like a pilgrimage in that there was remembrance, celebration, dialogue and a journey through different landscapes to a place of immense hope.”
Carrie added that FaB Dundee helps give faiths a collective voice to help serve the community as a group.
FaB Dundee has been invited to work with other organisations in the city, including Faith in Community and Funeral Link, who are planning a series of commemorative events in November, designed to comfort those who have lost loved ones due to Covid, no matter their beliefs.
Working towards inclusion
The group have been working in Dundee since the 1980s, previously as the Dundee Sharing of Faiths Group and then Dundee Inter Faith Association (DIFA), before becoming Faith and Belief Dundee.
However, Carrie said that the group’s principles have always focused on The Golden Rule – meaning people should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
She added: “Our present set-up allows for a much wider involvement and more inclusive membership – for example Humanist and Pagan – and we are registered as a Scottish charity.
“We continue to look for opportunities to promote understanding between and about diverse faiths and beliefs in Dundee.”