There are just over one hundred different faith communities in Gloucestershire. How do I know? Because, one afternoon, I counted them all up! It’s what I do as Faith and Ethics Producer at BBC Radio Gloucestershire; my job is to get know what happening in the county’s faith communities and enable their stories to be heard.
One of the highlights of my year is the Inter Faith Week, normally held at the end of November at the University of Gloucestershire. It’s there that people from faith groups around the county meet to talk, engage, listen, eat, pray where possible and recognise the things that connect rather than divide.
On one occasion I was able to interview members of seven different faith communities in just over half an hour. It seemed so natural, so obvious and warming to meet with and learn from those who believe in a different way to me.
Yet the events of this week in Kenya show us another story.
This new slaughter of the innocents in a Nairobi shopping centre shows the other side of faith – one that is corrupt and dare one say this – the very essence of evil. The victims came from all over the world; Australia, the United Kingdom, India, Peru, Canada, Ghana, South Korea, China, France and South Africa the list goes on. They died together.
Faith is not just about we as individuals believe, it’s about actively listening to what others believe; understanding their culture and history.
By doing this we can begin a walk that moves us closer together rather than dragging us apart leading to events such as we have seen in Kenya this week.
The Revd Richard Atkins, Faith Producer at BBC Radio Gloucestershire.