I started it because I wanted to reflect on and share my interfaith journey which for me has been a spiritual and, I think, transforming journey. It began at university when I moved out of my closed Catholic community to live in the secular environment of the university campus. I studied world religions but more importantly I met people of other faiths who were good and obviously in a relationship with God. I had never seriously thought about other faiths up till then. I can’t remember now whether I thought they were destined for salvation or not. Most of my concern growing up was with other Christian denominations, all of which were dismissed as Protestant. I had no idea whatsoever of different Christian denominations but I knew that a mixed marriage was bad and even as a child knew that it could split families. I thought then that only Catholics got to heaven and anyone who could read history would know that the Catholic Church was the descendant of the one founded by Jesus. Not to recognise this was the sin of culpable ignorance.
Against this background it’s easy to see how studying world religions and then subsequently teaching them was quite a shock to the system. I suddenly realised that what I had thought of as fact was belief and how restricting it is to see life through only one lens. I met people who were obviously in a good relationship with God, whose religious scriptures contained a wisdom which was universal and illuminated my own scriptures. I could see common themes and threads while acknowledging very real differences. I saw the difference between core beliefs and cultural expressions of them, I realised that religious doctrines are indeed fingers pointing to the moon and just as to concentrate on the finger is to miss the moon so often concentrating on the expressions of faith and not letting them take you beyond themselves was to miss the point of them. True religion was about deepening our relationship with God which meant deepening it with others and with ourselves.
It was these realisations that led me into the world of interfaith relations – first of all to the International Flat in Glasgow where an amazing woman called Stella Reekie had established the first interfaith group in Scotland. She had been a missionary in Pakistan and realised that the new Scots, coming as many of them did from the Indian sub-continent, would only be integrated into society if their religion was respected and understood. And so began my journey – a journey that took me to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka; a journey that led me to visit different places of worship in my own home town, to attend weddings and rites of passage in different faiths, to share scripture and faith as well as food and drink. Most of all it led me to wonderful and great interfaith friendships which have become so much part of my life that I cannot imagine life limited to only one community. I’m always a bit taken aback when I hear, as I often do, that a friend has never spoken to a Muslim, Sikh or Jew. That’s just so alien to my life.
This interfaith journey has been a great blessing for me and continues to be so. It has become the very air I breathe. So will I give up this blog? Probably not! Does it matter if anyone reads it? Probably not! What it does is give me an opportunity to reflect on the reality of interfaith experiences, to laugh a little at the idiosyncrasies of religion, to fulminate against the negative and to rejoice in the positive. For the moment it is part of my journey.