Sarah Griffin has been the driving force behind the Friendship Walks, and was chair of RIFG for more than 5 years. In this interview, we get to know her a bit better, and hear about her fondest memories of interfaith work.
Any good memories?
The events that stood out for me were the thematic events that we had. I always used to say that there was nothing, or no theme, that religion shouldn’t be about. So we did a programme on sex, one on death, one on suffering… Actually, I think my favourite one was death. We had all these people together, with very different ways and predictions of what happens after you died, but we were all enriched by what everyone else was saying. And I felt that that was interfaith almost at its best.
Hmm, any more?
Another memory that pops into my head is from the first year of the Friendship Walk. The weather couldn’t have been worse! I remember walking along the street, feeling like Scott of the Antarctic. You couldn’t see anybody in front of you…
There was a lot of love, and you remember the love.
And then we turned up at the Friends’ Meeting house, which happened to be the next place – and it was packed! I remember all these ladies in soaking wet saris, we were all dripping… And I was just so surprised, because up to that point I felt as if I was on my own. There was a lot of love, and you remember the love.
What motivated you for interfaith?
With my background, it’s no coincidence. I grew up in a Muslim country, in Libya. So I was really quite familiar and confident with other faiths. And to think that now there are people dying in the Mediterranean Sea, the place where I used to paddle as a child… That’s a really strong motivation to do things.
As a Quaker, I believe there is “that of God” in every human being. Even if someone believes something entirely different, maybe comes from a different country or background – there is something about that person that equals the most special part that you have.
But I’m also fascinated with history and the 17th century. That was a time of war, when the whole of Britain was deeply divided, and communities were broken. And when you have studied something and you see what can happen…
So why should everyone in Reading come to interfaith activities?
I can say that I’ve gained a lot through interfaith, like a broad knowledge of a lot of different faiths and religion. And it’s put me in my place. I can go into other faith communities and feel really humbled by it. For me, it’s been part of my life pilgrimage.
We are as diverse and as beautiful and as coloured as our brickwork.
I like to think that I’ve done something useful, that maybe other people will take up that idea. And I am really glad that there are people who are still prepared to support interfaith in Reading. I think our town is absolutely fantastic. We are as diverse and as beautiful and as coloured as our brickwork. And we all come together.