All asking the ultimate questions

On June 10 in St James's Palace, 80 young people from schools all over the UK and from nine different religions met to try and answer two of RE's ultimate questions: what does it mean to be religious today? Can faith contribute to the wellbeing of all?

The Golden Jubilee Inter Faith Youth Forum enabled participants, mostly from sixth forms, to hear from each other about their faiths, and consider how a society can build from respect to shared social action for the wellbeing of all.

The forum was supported by the Prince of Wales. Young participants came from the Isle of Lewis, Belfast, London, Leicester and North Wales, and from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Buddhism, the Baha'i Faith, Zoroastrianism and Jainism - a kind of micro-sample of the religious future of the UK.

When asked by the chairman, James Naughtie (the BBC presenter), whether religions will fight over the world in the future, they suggested that respect for difference can lead to friendly relations and shared values. These were not just words, because they actually spent the day showing that it may be exciting to learn from each other.

One young speaker came to the microphone to say that he had found more in common with all these religiously committed and spiritually vigorous British people than he found among his own friends, who thought his Christianity was weird.

One way of celebrating the Queen's Jubilee was to get young people talking across all religious boundaries about the future of faith, the potential of the spiritual life to build respect for all, and the riches that each religion might offer to the national community. Why doesn't every Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) in England and Wales, or every education authority in Scotland and Ireland plan a similar encounter event? If young people spend 25 hours a week in school, and an hour a week at church or mosque, then surely a day every 50 years to talk inter-religiously would be good as well.

Lat Blaylock is executive officer of the Professional Council for RE www.pcfre.org.uok

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