In general, the number of people from other faiths living in Scotland is low, probably no more than two to three percent of the population, concentrated largely in the cities. Nevertheless interfaith work is strongly supported by local and national government as part of their active commitment to equality and inclusion (for example through the One Scotland campaign) and in particular, to maintaining good relations between people of different faiths and cultures.
The largest ‘other faith’ community is the Muslim community (there now being more Muslims in Scotland than Episcopalians), mainly from Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian backgrounds, swollen by students and refugees from other nations. There are seven mosques in Edinburgh. There are also small Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Baha’i, Brahma Kumari, Unitarian and Pagan communities. In May 2011, a Baha’i Centre opened in Edinburgh’s new town and in June the Hindu Mandir and Cultural Centre was (re-)launched, both with government support.
Interfaith relations are good and research shows, for example, that young men from South Asian backgrounds identify more strongly as Scottish than their white counterparts. All parties in Scotland including the Scottish National Party, have pursued a vision of Scotland which is open and welcoming and not based on ethnicity. Therefore the climate is benign and, despite the low numbers of people of other faiths, there is a great deal of interfaith activity in Edinburgh in which the diocese has been strongly involved. The main organisers are:
The Edinburgh InterFaith Association
The Edinburgh InterFaith Association (EIFA) is the oldest interfaith association in Scotland and one of the most active anywhere in the world, with a substantial programme of public events (particularly during Scottish InterFaith Week in late November/early December), school events, consultancy to public bodies (City Council, Police, Health Service, Lothian Transport and national government) and support and capacity building for local interfaith. EIFA has been based at St John’s Episcopal Church in Princes St, Edinburgh since 2005 and Rev Donald Reid, Associate Rector at St John’s is currently co-convenor of EIFA.
Formerly known as the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, this is a project which was initiated by St John’s Episcopal Church in Princes St, Edinburgh that has grown to become a major programme of 200 to 300 interfaith and cross cultural events, focused mainly in August when the Edinburgh festivals are in full swing. The Festival is now a separate entity established as a partnership between St John’s and EIFA but involving many other organisations and venues.
The Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace organises the Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace.
Within the Scottish Episcopal Church, interfaith work is supported by the Provincial Committee for Relations with People of Other Faiths which is a sub-committee of the Church in Society Committee. The current convenor is Rev John Conway, Rector of St Martin’s, Dalry, Edinburgh. It is generally thought that the Scottish Episcopal Church has been the Christian denomination most engaged in interfaith work, with annual reports to General Synod strongly encouraging local engagement.
Interfaith activities are co-ordinated by the Rev John Conway.