How are peaceful multifaith communities achieved? - 7th November 2013

At a recent discussion on pacifism hosted by the St Paul’s Forum as part of the ‘How to change the world’ series (view here), several points arose relevant to a wider conversation around community organising and the challenges of living peacefully together. Though the conversation was framed by Christian thinking, those of us living and working in multifaith contexts will be familiar with many of the questions and issues faced. A few thoughts and questions to consider from the discussion follow:

We need to stand together. Theologian Stanley Hauerwas stated “A community of peace can not afford to let wrongs fester because the result is uncontrolled rage”. Without a cohesive response from all sectors of our communities in the face of damaging actions or attitudes, anger at perceived injustice will grow and tensions could eventually spill over. Where we see wrong happening, how can we as faith-based practitioners work together to counteract this?

We need to sow seeds. Franciscan friar Brother Samuel SSF spoke of the seeds of peace – sometimes tiny actions - taking time to show fruit. In the actions community organisers take we know results may take a long time to manifest but we should remain encouraged that change is happening unseen. The example of a white man raising his hat to a young Desmond Tutu’s mother led to Tutu’s belief not every person saw the world the same way and racial segregation in society could be overcome. Tiny acts can inspire huge change.

We need to make space for peace. In a society where peace is desired by many but often absent, we need to be deliberate in creating the spaces in which it can flourish. Both speakers made the point that peace can not be forced but must be allowed to take over. Working at grassroots levels, creating with our hands, making changes to our environment to allow peace to flourish, even at micro levels, can change the outcome for future expressions of community.

We need to create new experiences. Responding to a question about how we change the direction of future generations towards peace, Brother Sam answered it was vital to give children experiences of peace. And yet not all children will all have access to peaceful experiences while growing up. In fact, many won’t and some will experience the opposite of peace. In communities facing multiple challenges this is especially true. How can our work demonstrate peace to the children and young people we interact with and change their perceptions and expectations?

We need to decide to identify with our communities. Much of what affects our communities is structural. Inequality is often inherited and entrenched and cannot be easily overcome. When challenges arise which seem to compound this, potentially dividing communities as some are seen to be favoured over others, how do we respond well? How do we ensure we choose to be cohesive and work for the greater good of our communities at all times?


We’d love to hear your experiences. Has your work involved you directly trying to bring peace into communities and situations? How have you worked with others to do so? What difference does working from a faith motivation make to seeing this through in difficult circumstances?

(Homepage image from, an award-winning, VISIBLE-accredited multi-faith community project)



Hmm, interesting ideas there

Hmm, interesting ideas there Vicky, food for thought....