Polling, carried out by Populus on behalf of Interfaith Explorers, and published together with today’s launch, shows that 69% of people agree that children should be taught about faiths and religions other than their own, with 64% agreeing that religious ignorance is an issue in the UK.
Understanding the challenge
Of those questioned, 51% also believed that people often, or always, make initial judgments of others based on knowing their faith, with a further 38% believing that this happens at least sometimes. The sentiment is strongest among 18 to 24 year olds, of whom 60% believe that people often, or always, make initial judgments of others based on knowing their faith.
This is of particular concern as 71% of the population believes that religious misunderstanding is a major cause of world problems – compared with 33% who believe environmental problems such as flooding or hurricanes and 42% who believe food shortages are a major cause.
The depth of misunderstanding is stark. The same independent research found that only 29% of 18 to 24 olds knew that Jews, Christians and Muslims believed in the same god, while the figure is still less than half (43%) across respondents of all ages.
Interfaith Explorers Learning Resource aims to build understanding and highlight the three faiths’ similarities rather than differences.
Professor Nasser David Khalili, Chair of the Maimonides Foundation, comments: “As a Jew born in a Muslim country, I have always been acutely aware of the perceived differences between the three Abrahamic faiths which represent the beliefs of over half the world.
“In reality these faiths share more commonality than difference. I feel passionately that by exploring these similarities, and particularly how the history and art of these three cultures has intersected, young people will have a chance more widely to discuss and understand difference and acceptance, whether they are of these faiths, others or none.”
Jonathan Miller, Educationalist and Director of Product Development at EdisonLearning, developed Interfaith Explorers. He explains:
“This has been a fascinating project to work on with the Maimonides Foundation. The lesson of understanding others is not one that can only be taught in the classroom but by asking young people to think about what they have in common, we are able to start an important conversation that they can share with their friends and family.
“I was particularly interested to note that the research we conducted on behalf of Interfaith Explorers showed that 82% of the population would bring up their children to understand both belief-systems if their spouse or partner was of a different faith. Interestingly, this proportion drops to 73% for 18 to 24 year olds – compared to 88% of 55 to 64 year olds. It is possible that we simply get more open-minded with age but I wonder whether younger people simply have not had the chance to explore these differences.”
“Interfaith Explorers is a great example of how learning doesn’t have to be just about helping school and pupils meet targets; it can be about enriching young peoples’ lives so that they can better understand the world in which they live. The fact that the tool is freely available to all schools in England and Wales makes it all the more worthwhile.”
For more information, further statistics, supporting images or access to Interfaith Explorers, please contact Claire Morgans or Sarah Pearson on 020 7400 8948 or email at EdisonLearning@hanovercomms.com
Interfaith Explorers Learning Resource is a free six-week programme organised by the Maimonides Foundation with expert support from EdisonLearning. It is available to schools in England and Wales and is recommended for children in their last year of primary school.
The Learning Unit at the heart of the Interfaith Explorers Learning Resource is designed to give teachers everything they need to plan a half-term programme of learning with the aim of promoting respect through greater understanding of the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
A highly interactive resource, it gives children a chance to investigate independently and in groups a wide range of resources and information, including giving them access to images of artwork drawn from Professor Khalili’s unparalleled collection.
Participating schools can also choose to enter a national competition whereby pupils will have an opportunity to share their learning by submitting any form of creative media (artwork, video, etc.) online. Winning schools will win a Maimonides Foundation ‘artist in residence’ to further explore and develop their creative ideas.
Offering the opportunity for teachers to cover curriculum points that range from literacy and numeracy to music and design, it is hoped that this resource will allow pupils to look beyond their immediate community and build a deeper understanding of the cultural and social context of these three faiths.
About Maimonides Foundation
The Maimonides Foundation is an interfaith charity that fosters understanding and co-operation between Jews, Christians, and Muslims through cultural and academic programmes. The Foundation is committed to creating opportunities enabling the three communities to meet and share their commonalities and discuss their differences. Since 1995 it has worked to enhance and create dialogue, believing that dialogue is the only positive means of living in harmony in a multi-religious and multi-cultural society, through a series of cultural, academic, sporting, and educational programmes.
The Foundation involves prominent leaders and individual members of the three communities in the hope of furthering a peaceful and meaningful co-existence for the Children of Abraham.