Inter faith walks, pilgrimages and faith trails
A number of local inter faith organisations hold inter faith walks and 'pilgrimages', where people of different faiths and beliefs walk together, often visiting places of worship along the way.
These have a dimension of shared witness of unity and friendship and sometimes highlight a particular theme such as peace.
“It is incredibly important for people of all faiths and none to get to understand and respect the beliefs of others. Respecting others helps in building a society where everyone is valued. One important step in this process is meeting people or visiting a place of worship and seeing and hearing how others try to find God and how their beliefs and practices are incredibly precious to them.” LANCASHIRE FORUM OF FAITHS
There are several different kinds of inter faith walk taking place in the UK:
Inter faith walks and pilgrimages are journeys undertaken by followers of different faiths and beliefs, usually taking in sacred places associated with one or more faith groups.
They are highly visible indicators of peaceful inter faith relationships as participants walk and talk together through public places. They can help make local inter faith connections for community harmony, spark new friendships, increase mutual understanding and enrich participants' own spiritual journeys.
‘Faith trails’ are trails, often with a locally produced map and guide, which enable visitors to go individually or as groups to visit different places of worship. These are a great way for members of the public and for particular groups such as school children to experience something of the richness and variety of faith communities in their localities. As part of the trail visitors may be invited for a tour and a short talk, to witness a service, prayer or ceremony, or simply to look around.
The walks, trails and pilgrimages usually stop at different places of worship in their areas. That gives people a chance to learn about their neighbours' faiths and to explore the buildings that are so important to them.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some groups held 'virtual' faith trails. During Inter Faith Week 2021, Watford Interfaith Association hosted a 'Virtual Pilgrimage' on Zoom, showing places of worship worldwide and across Watford. For Inter Faith Week 2020, Redbridge Faith Forum led a 'Virtual Walk of Peace', featuring video tours of places of worship. Sheffield Interfaith also hosted a 'Virtual Inter Faith Walk', with slides of photos and short presentations. Oxford Council of Faiths held their annual 'Friendship Walk' virtually in 2020 and 2021. The annual Lewisham Interfaith 'Walk for Peace' was also hosted virtually in 2020, featuring video clips of different faith leaders and community representatives.
Faith trails are sometimes carried out on minibuses or coaches. For example, the 'Faith Coach' trip organised by Newcastle Council of Faiths for Inter Faith Week 2021.
One of the most long-standing multi faith pilgrimages in the country is that held each year in June by Westminster Interfaith, the agency of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster for Interreligious Dialogue. The Multifaith Pilgrimage for Peace, began in 1985. The pilgrimage unites people of faith by visiting places of worship and other sites of significance. Its purpose is to promote peace and resist division.
'I definitely feel that the pilgrimage touched me and I would do it again if I get chance. I think it is important for children my age to attend so that they grow up knowing not just about their own religion but others too'.
Read more about Sacha Wilke's experience of the Pilgrimage for Peace here.
South London Interfaith Group was another pioneer of inter faith walks, and has been holding annual walks since 1997. The walks are held across boroughs in South London, encompassing many places of worship from a range of faith communities over the years. The walks give members of the group an annual opportunity to visit new places of worship, to engage new constituencies, and to learn more about one another’s religious beliefs and traditions. The group has also produced guidance on organising an inter faith walk, which can be downloaded here.
More information can be found here.
Bolton Interfaith Council runs regular faith trails’ for schools, community groups and others. The faith trails visit a number of places of worship in the town. They are organised in partnership with the Bolton Council of Mosques, the Bolton Hindu Forum, Bolton Christian Cohesion and others. The trails include workshops, introductory talks or the opportunity to observe prayers or services. They are held on request all year round, as well as during Inter Faith Week.
More information about Bolton Interfaith Council’s faith trails can be found here.
Preston Faith Forum has published a map of places of worship in the city, allowing members of the public to design their own ‘faith trail’. It includes fourteen places of worship from the Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh traditions and is designed to provide an insight into history, beliefs and practices of these.
The Faith Forum also provides guided tours of places of worship for groups, members of the public, organisations and schools.
The map can be downloaded here.
Annually during national Inter Faith Week, Watford Interfaith Association holds its ‘Interfaith Pilgrimage’. The pilgrimage brings together association members, members of local faith communities and the public to walk, talk, share food and visit places of worship in the town. The pilgrimage in 2019 featured visits to the Synagogue, the Central Mosque, a Church of England church, a Roman Catholic church, a Shia mosque and the Gurdwara.
More information about the pilgrimage can be found here.
It was really fascinating to learn and visit different religious buildings and learn about similarity (in faiths); we need to keep such connections".
As part of Bristol Walk Fest in May 2018, Bristol Multi Faith Forum and Inner City and East Bristol Health Team organised a Multi Faith Trail. This event allowed attendees to walk the whole trail or join one or more parts, visiting the Bristol Hindu Temple, the Bristol Baha'i Centre, the Bristol Central Mosque and the Bristol and West Progressive Synagogue.
More information, including photographs from the day, can be found here.
Bristol also holds an annual ‘Diverse Doors’ day which sees different places of worship in the city opening to the public.
Edinburgh Interfaith Association organises an annual ‘peace walk’ that visits a variety of places of worship in the city. It describes the walks as an opportunity to stand against division, to promote peace and harmony in the city and to bring people together.
Among the places that have been visited are the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Baha’i Centre, the Hindu Mandir, Annandale Street Mosque, the Kagyu Samya Dzong Centre, the Sikh Gurdwara and the Synagogue.
More information about Edinburgh Interfaith Association, including the annual peace walk, can be found here.
Visitor etiquette at places of worship
Most people are delighted to welcome visitors in to their places of worship. In most instances there are, however, a number of things to be aware of:
- Liaise in advance with the places of worship to ensure that a planned visit is received well and that they can provide someone to welcome and guide and that they can let you have well in advance any points of etiquette and details on accessibility that may be needed.
- If you have any requirements or special needs, let the faith community you are visiting know in advance so that adequate preparation can be made.
- Be aware of any guidelines on clothing and behaviour when visiting particular places of worship so as not to cause offence. Make sure you are aware of these in advance of the visit and make preparations accordingly.
- Avoid talking loudly, so as not to disturb or interrupt any prayers or services taking place at the time of the visit.
- Always ask before taking any photographs so as to avoid causing offence.
- Ask questions sensitively and thoughtfully.
- Give some thought in advance to how you and other visitors in your group feel about things like joining in services or receiving blessed food. If you have particular points about your ability to participate, explain these courteously in advance.
This guidance draws upon material found in the 2007 edition of Religions in the UK: A Directory, produced by the Multi Faith Centre at the University of Derby in partnership with the Inter Faith Network for the UK.