On Thursday evening November 24, we participated in an innovative theatre workshop to explore how families and communities respond to religious conversion. The event was part of the ‘Being Human’ festival which is a yearly “national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival highlights the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world.”
The theme for the 2016 festival was ‘Hope & Fear’. Amidst the 300+ events organised by over 70 universities and research organisations in 36 towns and cities across the UK, came the invitation to participate in the ‘Transformations in Faith: Exploring Hopes and Fears’ theatre workshop in Edinburgh.
The theatre workshop had two main parts to it. In the first session, the participants went through a series of exercises where they ‘expressed’ their thoughts, feelings and emotions through actual ‘body language’ and performance. The interesting rationale behind this approach was that: using words in ordinary speech to express how we feel does not always reflect how we actually feel. The exercises in the first session therefore prepared us for the second part where we actually began addressing situations involving the theme of religious conversion.
Why did we participate? Well, to learn of course. We live in a world of complex challenges, and religious conversion is certainly something that we as an Islamic institution frequently encounter. Whilst some convert to Islam, we see others leave the religion. We therefore went along to understand ‘being human’ when faith and spirituality cross religious borders. We learnt many things, like: the importance of listening to what others have to say and “disagreeing with respect” – someone may well have full conviction in one path, but they need to recognise that others may well have theirs.
The eye-opening workshop was concluded by a ‘themed meal’ provided by the World Kitchen Team. The participants discussed food choice, religious identity and conversion to end the rich and meaningful event where a mix of people from all faiths and none came to learn from each other and discuss the challenging issues of religion, identity and faith.