Life at UWC Atlantic College took a turn in different direction on the 23 and 24 of March in order to discuss different faiths as well as to promote open and respectful conversations about a significant part of some people’s lives-their religion and beliefs. The first day of the conference kicked off peacefully with an optional meditation. Upon the arrival of all students, an opening ceremony took place with intermittent breaks for performances as well as a speech encouraging people to be attentive and respectful to other people and their beliefs. During the market stalls, different stands were set up in order to learn more about all the different faiths represented such as Taoism, the Iona Community, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, the Bah’ai faith and other religions. Some six students were given the opportunity to give an account different issues that they encountered as part of their beliefs ranging from accepting Islam as a peaceful religion to questioning ones Christian faith. Students and staff as well as guests in attendance attended workshops given by students as well as a few external speakers. The topics spoken about during the workshop sessions covered a range of topics such as Queerness in Islam, religious conflicts and reincarnation .An external speaker, Viv Barlett spoke about the Bah’ai faith which was quite new to the population at AC. He spoke about the intricacies of the religion as well as the stats relating to their followership. A creation story from the Yoruba tribe in West Africa was also narrated to the guests in attendance. Another external speaker- Bill Drexel gave an educative speech and supporting statistics to prove that the world was becoming more religious to prove that development and progress does not make for a decrease in religion. At the end of the day, an optional prayer session was organised for students for attendees to experience different paths and their modes of communication with their God/god. A movie was screened in the evening for those interested.
On the second day, the opening ceremony also featured performances from students. A different series of workshops took place on the final day featuring different topics such as breaking Christian Stereotypes, Demystifying black magic (the African Traditional Religion) as well as some thought-provoking topics such as questioning why you believe. Rachel Lichtenstein, an external speaker gave her experience with Jews and their connection with her family as well as her experience in London, UK and Barbados. Other stories of creation such as the big bang theory and the Chinese creation story were narrated to the attendees to showcase the diversity and beauty in its difference. The final speaker of the conference- Tavier Ahmed, an Imam spoke about Islam in Wales sharing the simplicity and beauty in his religion as opposed to the well-known narrative and cloud of violence which surrounds the practice. The conference ended with reflections of the period over two days and a web of belief in the closing ceremony featuring groups of people who threw around yarn making a web by stating what he/she believes in.
The conference featured interesting, thought-provoking sessions and talks with experienced as well as deeply affected by their faith and religion. In the end, almost everyone took away enlightenment, respect, tolerance and an appreciation for all the different faiths and beliefs that exist in our diverse community.
by Oma Nwibe (UWC Atlantic College), Class of 2019 from Nigeria