IP Inclusive Week coincides this year with Inter Faith Week, a campaign to increase inter faith understanding and cooperation.
Religion is of course a tricky subject, but it’s one that we probably ought to talk about more. So maybe that’s something to bear in mind when you’re planning your IP Inclusive Week activities.
Religion can be a taboo subject in professional circles these days. For one thing, there is the fear of offending someone whose faith is not the same as yours. But those with a strong faith may also worry about being ridiculed for it, or labelled a kill-joy, perhaps shunned as extremists or avoided for fear they might start preaching. There can also be a tendency to dismiss religious beliefs as somehow less valid than the supposed rigours of legal and scientific thinking.
A person’s faith, or their decision not to have a faith, or even their doubt on the subject, is a significant part of what makes them who they are. In a truly inclusive society, we should understand and respect those beliefs, and embrace everyone regardless. This is not to say that we need to give a platform to those whose faith inspires them to acts of hatred or violence, or who use their religion to condemn or upset others. But for most of us, faith – or the absence of faith – is simply a framework for our personal belief systems and ways of life, a source of comfort and of celebration, something we would be happy to share but reluctant to make an issue of. If we understand one another’s perspectives in this important area, we can work together more constructively.
It just so happens that this year, IP Inclusive Week coincides with Inter Faith Week. This campaign aims to:
- strengthen good inter faith relations at all levels;
- increase awareness of the different faith communities in the UK; and
- increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.
So, if you haven’t yet decided how to mark IP Inclusive Week, you could do worse than to organise an internal get-together that allows people to speak more openly and more confidently about their religious beliefs. What do they believe, exactly? How does that shape their behaviour and principles? How does it affect their day-to-day lives, for instance their diet, their clothing, their habits and routines? What events and rituals does it entail – celebrations, for example, or rites of passage – that others might be interested to learn about?
Allowing an open, informal and non-judgemental discussion around these questions might bring you some pleasant surprises, in terms of an increased understanding of your colleagues; interesting insights into cultures and practices you previously knew little about; and greater confidence for everyone in bringing their “whole selves” to work.
This type of event probably needs to be chaired, to ensure that people’s beliefs are embraced rather than scrutinised or challenged, but it would be a good way to mark both IP Inclusive Week and Inter Faith Week and generally to improve inclusivity in your organisation.