Sport and physical activity are enjoyable and important in their own right. They can also be valuable tools for creating and deepening understanding between people of different Backgrounds – young and old.
Using the Power of Sport to Build Good Inter Faith Relations
On 14 November the Inter Faith Network for the UK, in partnership with Sporting Equals, held a special Inter Faith Week symposium entitled ‘Using the Power of Sport to Build Good Inter Faith Relations’.
The symposium provided an excellent opportunity for practitioners from the world of sport and from inter faith initiatives to explore how sport can help people of different backgrounds to meet one another, come to understand each other better, develop skills for cooperation and build stronger inter faith relations.
The event was held at Leicester Tigers’ stadium and participants came from national sports organisations, regional sports clubs, public sector organisations, and faith and inter faith bodies.
A report on the event, including summaries of presentations and discussions at it, can be found here.
Ideas - using sport as a catalyst for building bridges and supporting greater integration
The following list offers ideas for ways in which bodies might use sport in different ways to build bridges and support greater integration. The ideas are framed around the 4 types of organisation IFN links in membership, but many of the ideas will also have wider relevance.
Local inter faith and faith groups
- Arrange an Inter Faith Week sports event such as a taster evening with sports such as Badminton, Tennis, Bowls or Football inviting a local or national sports celebrity with a known faith commitment to come and talk about their experiences
- Start a regular inter faith walking group utilising the social aspect to help create dialogue between communities
- Invite a local sports club to come and do an introduction to their sport and arrange an introductory taster session and provide a link into the club
- Speak to the inclusion officer at the local sports centre or Local Authority to see what they could offer to local faith and inter faith groups – they are likely to see this as a helpful new way of reaching out to the community
- Organise a sports event that bridges faiths and possibly generations - perhaps include an ‘introduce yourself’ session where team members can learn about one another with ‘one fact about my faith’ that each person would like to share with others
- Work with your local cricket, football, rugby or other club to develop a tournament for local schools involving different faiths and beliefs, use this as a platform for young people to learn about other communities
- Arrange an inter faith bike ride - these can be great fun, especially if there is a break for a picnic along the way. Encourage people to share different foods
- Arrange a space for women to meet for physical activity or to play sports together in a female only environment – netball is a good starter as is five-a-side football. Ensure a female instructor is facilitating the session
- Work with local faith groups to arrange a religious leaders cricket or football match to help create friendship and dialogue between different communities
- Work with a body like parkrun UK or Walking for Health to organise inter faith events which can involve whole communities, link to places of worship such as churches, gurdwaras, mosques, mandirs, temples and viharas
National and regional inter faith organisations
- Consider an inter faith sports dimension to your work in the coming year
- Make contact with sports organisations that might be interested in religious literacy training. Some faith centres offer open days
- Explore with local clubs joint sponsorship of inter faith events as part of their wider community engagement programmes
National faith community representative bodies
- Encourage your members to get involved in local sports initiatives with an inter faith dimension
- Work with football and rugby clubs and other national sports bodies and with sports associations to increase understanding about different faiths and develop literacy and ‘in the community’ programmes
- Use Mitzvah Day, Sadaqa Day, Sewa Day and Inter Faith Week as opportunities to encourage clubs to focus on faith and inter faith engagement
- Encourage any faith-based leagues or clubs within your tradition to arrange friendly games with those of another tradition
Educational and academic bodies
- Consider a research project focusing on sport and inter faith engagement
- Produce materials for classroom or other use about how sport can be a route to increase mixing and learning
- Explore ways that sport has been used historically to encourage cross-community understanding and friendship
- Train coaches and instructors to understand the sensitivities around delivering sport with other faiths and cultures