Why food can help your students understand each other's faith

Posted on July 28, 2017 by Linda Geevanathan
Categories: Primary, Secondary,

Linda moved to Luton in 2002 to join Hope Church. She has lived in several countries around the world including Singapore, Australia and Nigeria, but she spent the first years of her life here in Luton. Linda taught in a primary school in Luton for ten years and then spent a year on an internship at Bethel Church in Redding, California. These days, Linda balances her time between primary teaching, overseeing the youth and children's work at the church and volunteering for a local charity. 

We as a nation are facing a time of increasing division between people of different religions and cultures.  From American politics we are bombarded with images of building walls and travel bans and as a nation ourselves we are living through what Brexit looks like, what it means to be British and the horrific attacks committed by broken people in London and in Manchester.  It is into this mixed up, uncertain climate that our young people are making decisions, where they are forming ideas and building what will become their ‘normal’ ways of thinking and living. 

Unfortunately, many of our young people, despite living in multi-cultural towns, may never set foot into the home of someone from a different faith or cultural background to them, they may never share a meal with them, never try to build anything more than a superficial relationship.  They simply live parallel lives, flowing along together, but never really connecting in any consequential way.  They may see people of other faiths and perhaps be acquaintances with some but really they share little relationship, depth or community with those from other backgrounds. 

How we combat, ignorance and hatred is so important.  We can’t ignore what’s going on or be afraid to talk about it with our young people, even better than that would be to provide our youth with safe places where they can have healthy dialogue with people who are different to them.  There we teach our young people vital life skills; of tolerance, to listen, to respect those from different faiths, to speak positively and to build relationships so that they can see the things they have in common, as well as to honour the differences.  Providing forums for our young people to talk about faith in healthy ways is more than an important skill, it is crucial, particularly in today’s climate. 

‘The Feast’ is an organisation that was set up with the key purpose of bringing together teenagers from different religious backgrounds and cultures to build friendships, explore faith and hopefully, change lives. 

It creates a safe place where young people can eat together, socially interact and share their thoughts in an honest way; it facilitates discussion between the young people, giving them space to share about their own faith and to discuss current issues from a faith perspective.  In this process, the groups are not out to convert each other, instead they are given the opportunity to build friendships and find common ground with those from different communities.  They use a set of guidelines for dialogue which are brilliant at facilitating healthy conversations.  

We need to do more than address issues that breed ignorance and segregation, we have a responsibility to give our young people a place where they can safely talk about faith with others from different faiths.  We want to face fear and intolerance head on, not by ignoring faith or issues of faith, but instead through building real friendship across faiths.

If you have found helpful ways of creating meaningful dialogue between different faith groups in schools, leave them in the comments below. It might just help someone looking for a new idea

To check out The Feast head to http://thefeast.org.uk/