Members of the faith communities in Barbados have joined forces to come up with ways to forge a common defence against violence and conflict.
The Abrahamic Faiths Conference, which takes place at Codrington College on June 18 and 19, will bring together members of the Christian, Islamic and Jewish communities along with representatives of the Rastafarian faith.
The conference, which is being held in partnership with the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, has as its theme: Peace in a World of Conflict – Building on a Common Heritage.
The event will be preceded on Monday, June 17, with a Journey In Faiths rally, which is primarily geared towards children, from primary to tertiary institutions.
It begins with a walk through Bridgetown to the religious sites representing the various faiths, namely the mosque on Sobers Lane, the synagogue at Synagogue Lane and St. Michael’s Cathedral on St. Michael’s Row, where representatives of each community will share information about their beliefs.
The walk ends in Queen’s Park, where members of the Rastafarian community will dialogue with the children, after which the youngsters will present their own messages of peace to the audience.
The primary objective of the conference, according to Principal of Codrington College, Rev. Dr. Michael Clarke, is to “light a candle of hope”.
At a press conference held to promote the event on Wednesday, he said: “We are doing so in a very complex world where it is far easier for each faith tradition to stay within its determined boundaries, and reject the need to and the value of having conversations with other faiths.”
He said the Abrahamic Conference represented an effort to move beyond these boundaries and to engage across religions… “to offer a way through which the various faith traditions can assist in creating and reinforcing an environment of peace in our Caribbean region and by extension, the wider world”.
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, told the media that the Ministry welcomed the conference, which came on the heels of a series of peace initiatives promoted by Government earlier this year in response to gun-related and other acts of violence.
“We are living now in a world filled with so much violence and strife, we have to explore every avenue to preserve peace and goodwill in our homes, our communities and society,” she stated.
Noting that differences of faith throughout history had sometimes led to conflict, she submitted: “While we may worship in different ways, and even in different languages, there are so many elements that bind us together, beginning with love.”
The final event of the conference will be a public panel discussion at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St. Michael, on Wednesday, June 19, at 7:30 p.m.
The discussion, which will be led by representatives from each faith community, will invite a national conversation on the commonalities of the faiths and encourage respect for the differences.