In his introduction at the launch of the Diversity 21 'In Good Faith' Exhibition in Hillsborough Castle this morning, Shaunaka Rishi Das of the Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum explained:
"This colourful and informative exhibition is going to be instrumental in helping people to understand the religious diversity which exists in Northern Ireland. Catholic and Protestant denominations belong to the same religion – Christianity – which is only one part of the religious tapestry which makes up what is, in fact, a truly multicultural Northern Ireland."
The 'In Good Faith' Exhibition is one of 14 major projects taking place as part of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure's Diversity 21 initiative which celebrates the diverse interests and cultures of the communities living in Northern Ireland. It is designed to illustrate the doctrines of the eight main religious groups represented here: Bahà'ìs, Buddhists, Chinese, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs. Major financial assistance for this initiative has been made available from the European Programme of the Community Relations Council.
Also speaking at the launch was Mark Adair of the Community Relations Council who told the audience: "Faith matters. It is an essential part of many people's lives and provides them with a sense of comfort, challenge and community, based on a relationship with God. We have many different views on religion and not all of them are compatible. Being good neighbours, however, doesn't mean that we cannot disagree. What is important is that we do so in ways which are respectful of other people. Diversity only becomes divisive when we make it so.
"Learning about other people's beliefs is useful. It can help us take fuller account of their needs in all that we do and say and can assist understanding of our own religious traditions," he added.
"Religious observance is as old as human history. It has provided generations with a sense of who they are and all that they might be. It has also been a source of conflict. In the current world situation, it is more important than ever that we consider other people's faith and that we have an insight into why and what they believe. All of us have different ways of making sense of our existence and relationship with the world that we share. Tolerance gives us the right to make that choice for ourselves."
Notes to editors:
Trees hold significance in many religious traditions and, as part of the ceremony, children representing different faiths wrote a prayer and, in a symbolic gesture, tied it on to a tree.
Other speakers at the event included Rev Maurice Ryan of the Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum and Bert Tosh, Chief Producer, Religion at BBC Northern Ireland.
The multi-faith 'In Good Faith' exhibition has been organised in partnership with the Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum, the Community Relations Council and the BBC. It introduces the main 8 religious groups represented in Northern Ireland: Bahà'ì, Buddhism, Chinese Community, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism.
It will be on display widely across the Province. Current confirmed venues include: Upper Bann Institute, Banbridge; Cardinal O'Fiaich Library, Armagh;
Verbal Arts Centre, Derry; and Donaghadee, Omagh and Holywood Libraries.
Diversity 21 is an opportunity for people to consider their neighbours, from whatever religious or cultural background, and acknowledge, learn about and celebrate the differences.
Anyone wishing to host 'In Good Faith' or any of the other Diversity 21 exhibitions should contact Jane Campbell at the Diversity 21 office, Tel: 028 9025 8885, email: email@example.com or visit our website: www.diversity21.co.uk
For further information please contact:
Audrey Bertinat, Press Officer Norman Richardson, Secretary