Wed | Jun 19, 2019

Religious confab set for April 25-27

Published:Saturday | April 21, 2018 | 12:10 AMShanna Kaye Monteith/Gleaner Writer

Religious Education was never really one of those subjects held in high regards in high schools in Jamaica, and students who are mostly of a Christian faith, sometimes hold dear their ideology with little or no knowledge or understanding of their classmate's belief who may be of another religion.

The same attitude is carried into universities and colleges and ultimately the work place.

With the ultimate aim of encouraging 'unity in diversity' the recently launched Academy for the Study of Religion (ASR) is set to host its first education conference from April 25 - 27 at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters in Mona.

Under the theme: The twelve major religions of the world and their social and cultural impact and societies, the conference aims to advance the understanding and the interconnectedness between faiths promoting a deeper understanding for all.

Religious teachers from Jainism, Baha'i, Judaism, Rastafari, Christianity, and Buddhism among others - all of whom are noted in their respective faiths with affiliations from top-tier Universities in the US, UK, Caribbean and Canada including Harvard University and the UWI - are slated to speak at the three-day conference.

In noting the significance of such a forum, chief executive officer for the ASR, Dr. Phillis Green, said: "Religion, faiths and belief systems are interwoven in the very fabric of many social norms, values, attitudes, behaviours, and habits of people everywhere. Jamaica, being predominantly a country with a Christian background does have multiple belief practices that every person should be aware of to be more understanding. The conference facilitates the exploration, study, and learning of this emerging field."

Green provided data which shows that in 2017 Christianity was still the largest religion with 2.2 billion adherents, the data suggests that it is declining in influence among all religious followers. At the same time, Islam was reported to have 1.6 billion adherents and deemed to be the fastest growing religion. The three non-Christian religions, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism dominant on the other side of the Atlantic had 3.2 billion followers, however, there is hardly understanding of all religions from the different followers.

"All are equal as they all believe in a Supreme Being. The Academy's stance of 'unity in diversity' is integrated into the conference to ensure fairness for all present," she said, noting that religion is often used to dominate societies economically, politically, socially and culturally.

ASR's CEO shared that the study of all religions is important as individuals have a right to choose, espouse and practise the religion of his or her choice; it is the duty of every individual to respect the rights of others to practise the religion they choose.

Launched in February, the ASR is seeking the widest possible collaboration with the representatives of all forms of religion, with academic and non-academic institutions and organisations, both locally and internationally, for the purpose of bridging the artificial barriers that have historically separated people because of their faith beliefs and traditions.