It’s a real privilege and a pleasure to be here with all of you today and to have the opportunity to tell you about the experiences of the Scottish delegation on this unique exchange. I want to begin by expressing our sincere thanks to everyone involved in making this exchange possible. We know an enormous amount of work has gone in to making it all come together and I hope to give you a flavour of our trip and to show you why their efforts have been so worthwhile. Our ten days have included a wide variety of experiences, from visiting places of worship, to participating in some of the wonderful projects run by the Interfaith Center of New York to having discussions with officials who are engaging to various degrees and in different ways with faith communities.
We also found time to experience some of the sites this great city has to offer, one of the highlights of which was a trip to Ellis Island and Liberty Island, and you can see in the photo that we were undeterred by the rain!
[Aharon Soudry speaks, see above posting.]
I’d like finally to share with you some of the important outcomes of this exchange from the perspective of the Scottish delegation, one of which has been the debates that have been ignited by us all being here together.
We’ve been discussing matters of key concern to life in our religiously and culturally diverse societies and the experiences and expertise of both those from New York and from our friends from Barcelona have been extremely valuable in informing those discussions and we have learnt a great deal from eachother. We have been motivated to think more deeply about the nature of interfaith work and what our goals are. How can we balance our efforts in such a way that we work together in practical ways toward the common good but also fulfil that vital need to truly know one another so that understanding, trust and friendship can be built?
We have heard conflicting opinions as to the extent to which New York communities are segregated or integrated and have asked what do we mean when we speak of integration? How can we create a society where people can maintain their religious and cultural identity and at the same time feel free and welcome to engage with others and to move fluidly throughout all sections of society? We have been exposed to a great array of good practice in interfaith work and are already planning how we might implement what we have learned when we go back to Scotland.
Just one example, the success of the Rabbi Marshall Meyer retreat has encouraged us to think of ways in which we can develop our network of religious leaders, to engage more grassroots leaders and to provide them with training in practical matters pertinent to their communities and in this way reach out to more than just those who already think that interfaith engagement is a good idea. We are delighted that although this is our final full day in New York, this is not the end of our learning exchange. We look forward very much to welcoming a delegation from New York and our friends form Barcelona to Glasgow when it is our turn to host the exchange.
The bar has been set very high by Chloe and her team and just as the Qur’an tells us that we should ‘compete with one another in goodness’ we have been inspired to make every effort to ensure that delegations from New York and Barcelona will have as fruitful and as enjoyable a time as we have had here. Thank you very much!