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Interfaith Week: the Interfaith Food Justice Declaration Event

Categories: Articles:Social Justice, BLOG | Published: 02/12/2016 | Views: 1529
In our blog, Commission member Grace Buckley reports on activities during Interfaith Week

I have to admit that I could not claim any great knowledge of Interfaith Week in the past but this year it really impacted my awareness with two events in particular raising its profile in Glasgow: the launching of Interfaith Glasgow as a separate charity at Glasgow City Chambers on 14th November and the signing of the Interfaith Food Justice Declaration at the new Glasgow Central Gurdwara on 17th November.  

It was good to attend the City Chambers launch event and witness the formal setting out of Interfaith Glasgow as a separate entity from its “parent” Interfaith Scotland, although as the speakers at the event reminded us, there has been a long tradition of migration, integration and interfaith work in Glasgow. Indeed, as Sr. Isabel Smyth,  the Secretary of the Bishops' Committee on Interreligious Dialogue, said, in the area of interfaith work, the Glasgow Sharing of Faiths Group was the first in Scotland, and one of the pioneers of interfaith work had been the late Stella Reekie, through the International Flat.

The second event gave me a chance to visit the new and splendid Gurdwara in Berkeley Street and to witness something practical that the various faith communities in Glasgow are doing together as a result of identifying what they have in common and building on that.  

The event had been organised by the informal Interfaith Food Justice Network, co-ordinated by Interfaith Glasgow and the Transformation Team of Faith In Community Scotland.  It centred around the formal signing, on behalf of the faith communities, of the Food Justice Declaration (full text accessible at ) which sets out in clear and simple language the beliefs of the signatory faiths that food is a basic human right and no one should have to turn to foodbanks or other forms of emergency food aid.  he declaration finishes with a pledge of the signatories to support each other in working for effective change.

Before the declaration was signed by those present, there were short inputs from Martin Johnstone , who chaired the Independent Working group on Food Poverty set up by the Scottish Government and which reported in June this year; Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities; and Dr. Inderjit Singh from the Gurdwara.

Both Martin and Dr. Singh made clear the importance of food in their faith communities. Martin began by recounting one of the late Bishop Mone’s stories about a little boy sharing a biscuit he had given him with his friends and how this had given him a whole new insight into the Eucharist. He also quoted the words of Pope Francis which he had at a Mass in St. Peter’s Rome the previous Sunday “There can be no peace in the homes of the prosperous as long as justice for all is lacking.” 

He made it clear that in Scotland people should not be having to make the choices between eating and heating, or going without to feed your children.  Places of worship, he suggested, can be places where community is built through food growing, preparation or sharing.  He finished with the reminder that for the Christian faith tradition, a meal is at the heart of our faith.

Dr. Singh in turn explained the centrality of the langar (common kitchen) in Sikhism.  Listening to Dr. Singh, I appreciated how very fitting it was for us to be signing the Food Justice Declaration in the Gurdwara because for Sikhs, the provision of food is an important part of their religious practice, and the langar open to all without distinction of race or religion. It expresses in a very practical way equality and community inclusion, as well as providing the opportunity for service and voluntary giving.  The whole family is involved in the work of the kitchen as we saw later when we were given the opportunity to sample a langar meal.  

Angela Constance expressed her agreement that it is a disgrace in our advanced economy that food poverty exists, and this is just a symptom of wider poverty.  She drew attention to the government’s Fairer Scotland Action Plan, which was published at the beginning of October, and she appealed to the Network to help, acknowledging that the government cannot build a faire Scotland on its own.  One idea she raised was that the right to food could be enshrined in Scots law – what would this look like? 

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