Who We Are
Having lived in South East Asia and travelled widely in the region and beyond, I was fascinated to observe how the belief and practice of religion is influenced by local culture, and how local culture is influenced by religion. In some communities cultural norms and religious norms are so intertwined that it was difficult to identify them apart, which led me in turn to reflect on my own religion and culture. Wanting to learn more I embarked on a degree course at Lancaster University to study World Religions from an anthropological perspective, with a postgraduate focus on women and religion. This insightful journey culminated in a great appreciation of the richness of diversity; and a recognition of the need to promote understanding between people of different faiths and cultures to help eradicate mistrust and conflict. Hence I became involved in regional, national and international interfaith dialogue, and subsequently the foundation of this magazine.
From a young age I have had an interest in beliefs, languages and cultures, as well as my own Scottish culture and languages. This led me to study Theology and Religious Studies at Glasgow University and then to do a PGCE in Religious Moral and Philosophical Studies at the University of Strathclyde. I believe the more we understand and respect the diverse array of traditions and cultures this world has to offer the better the lived experience for all will be. I have therefore been involved with local and global interfaith organisations for many years, and the people I have met along this path have greatly enriched my life and understanding of the complex world we live in. As an RMPS teacher I am able to provide time and space, and motivation, for young people to explore their own cultural, societal and philosophical values in the context of events in the wider world, opening up their minds to moral issues of poverty and social justice that exist at a local and global level. The insight I have gained gives me a good understanding of the thinking of young people on areas surrounding religious and spiritual beliefs, and I recognise that as we look to the future their contribution to interfaith/intercultural dialogue will be vital.
I have a passion for interfaith and it has grown over the years. As a child I experienced the trauma first hand of the division of my homeland on religious grounds - the partition of India and the creation of the Islamic state of Pakistan. My family, being Sikh, had to flee for their lives from Pakistan. As soon as I began developing my understanding of my family faith, it became deeply embedded in me that faith in the divine unites humankind. I continue to be inspired by the sacred texts revealed by Guru Granth Sahib, the first interfaith anthology providing equal status to the writings of the Sikh Gurus, Hindu and Muslim saints of diverse castes, classes, languages and cultures. I strongly feel that religion is not about division and that we must work to counter those that would abuse it. I engage with local, national and international interfaith organisations to help achieve a more equal and harmonious society.
Co-editor & Design Consultant
Following my studies at Oxford University, assessment & training consultancy and academia have been integral to my professional life. In the aftermath of 9/11, I was spontaneously drawn to inter-cultural communication and find that, with sincerity and understanding, positive and rewarding relationships can be forged.
Sometime ago, a conversation with Royal Air Force colleagues led to a close friend talking negatively of people of colour. I asked him… “What about me?”. Without hesitation he said “You’re different – we know you”. It has been my aim ever since to provide opportunities for people of diverse cultures and religions to get to know each other.
I see interreligious dialogue as a way to greater harmony and peace for humanity. As Programme Director for the Brahma Kumaris UK my focus is on sustainability and building spiritual capacity. I am also part of the Strategic Circle of the Spirit of Humanity Forum, a global platform for leaders and change-makers.
Since graduating from university I have engaged in research and dialogue that works towards solving humanitarian and environmental conflicts. I believe that socio-cultural and socio-environmental events should be designed to raise awareness to global issues, and provide opportunities for individual exchanges. My main interest therefore is designing solution-focused and impactful events.
Poet in Residence
The desire to find the sacred, or the evanescent, or maybe simply meaning beyond getting and begetting, present in every culture I know, moves my life and work. An engaged Buddhist, I am informed and inspired by others on a spiritual path. Within all our diversities, there is some seeking spirit which is similar, as this magazine shows.
We acknowledge the retirement of Umm Hanié from the Editorial Team, and thank her for her valuable support over many years. Her numerous insightful written contributions can be accessed through our Search facility.