Church of England Schools Join Interfaith Week

Thousands of Church of England schools are taking part in the United Kingdom's first interfaith week, which kicked off on Sunday.

The week is being facilitated by the Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

It is being led at the community level with local groups holding events to highlight their work in promoting understanding between people of different faiths and beliefs, and the contribution faith groups make to their neighborhoods and the wider society.

Many of the Church of England's 4,500 primary and 220 secondary schools are taking part in events.

Birmingham Cathedral has teamed up with Operation Noah to run a week of events focusing on climate change and the story of Noah, which is shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Local primary school pupils will write their thoughts and fears about the impact of climate change onto animal shapes, which will then join a giant ark, while students from Bartley Green High School have put together a major art installation at the cathedral.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, will visit the London Inter Faith Center at St Anne's, Brondesbury, where he will meet students from a dozen secondary schools with a religious character in north London. They will spend the day reflecting on the distinctive elements of their own religion that make a valuable contribution to the common good.

The first purpose-built Islamic maintained secondary school in the country, Madani High School in Leicester, is hosting staff, governors, clergy and pupils from four of the city's Church of England primary schools. The schools hope the Inter Faith Week will act as a springboard to a longer-term relationship between them. The Church of England guests will be treated to a tour of the school and mosque.

The Rev. Canon Guy Wilkinson, the Church of England's adviser on inter religious affairs, said the many activities being planned were a sign of people's enthusiasm for learning more about their neighbors.

"Young people understand that faith has a significant impact on society at a local, national and international level, and they have clear insights into how their own family's beliefs and values shape the way they are being brought up," he said. "Getting involved in activities that help them get a better understanding of the beliefs and practices of others in their neighborhood through face-to-face engagement is a much better way of supporting strong community relations than reading from text books.

"It's really encouraging to see cathedrals, churches and schools leading the way in providing platforms for these types of initiatives, that will serve to increase understanding and friendships across groups of people of different faiths and none."