February 26, 2010 Faith Matters

The Forums Project – Bridging Beliefs Forums Project

The Bridging Beliefs Forums were a unique series of workshops across England with Holocaust survivors and survivors of the genocide of Bosnian Muslims in 2005.

The Bridging Beliefs Forums were a unique series of talks that took place in Manchester, Leeds, London, Birmingham and Leicester.  In a unique demonstration of togetherness, survivors of the Holocaust and the genocide of Bosnian Muslims came together to share the stage and their experiences to group of students around the UK.  This was a novel project that helped to break down barriers and generate materials that supported Holocaust and genocide education in this country.

Bridging Beliefs Forums – Background

Bridging Beliefs was a two part project, the first part of which was the Forums followed by the Bridging Beliefs Journey.  The Bridging Beliefs Journey took a group of Muslims and Jews across Europe, culminating in visits to Auschwitz and Srebrenica.

The inspiration behind Bridging Beliefs was to reduce barriers between Jews and Muslims which have built up because of the Israel and Palestine issue and which continues to corrode relationships and which should not be the over-riding factor which shapes relationships between both faith groups. Therefore the project looked to show the experiences of genocide survivors, in this case, Muslim and Jewish survivors of genocide.

Linking these two experiences was not a question of making direct comparisons, but just as the Holocaust had a profound and lasting impact on Jews throughout the world, the atrocities committed in Bosnia also had significant effect on Muslims. Both communities which thought that they were ‘safe’ in Europe subsequently found out that they were not and were subject to cruel and systemised genocide.

Bridging Beliefs Forums – Concept

As a population, many in the UK have become hardened to hearing the never ending stories of large numbers of peoples that have been killed, whether through natural or unnatural disasters.  Although they may leave us appalled and upset, we seem to hear stories about unnamed individuals far too frequently to become involved and to find out more about the people who suffered and their life stories.

By having the survivors of both the Holocaust and the Bosnian Detention Camps sharing their personal stories, this project gave participants the opportunity to put faces and names to the horrific stories they had only heard about.  By having survivors of both genocides on stage together we brought forward the faces, the stories and the similarities of genocide that need to be learned so that people can become sensitized to where and how discrimination and isolation of communities takes place.  These forums also gave the audiences the opportunity to take part in a discussion which also gave them the opportunity to think about what they had heard.

Further information on this project can be obtained from Fiyaz Mughal OBE FCMI on info@faith-matters.co.uk