Responding to contemporary conflicts and tensions between representatives of various groups, including religious ones, we decided to propose an educational series entitled "Between Religions" (September 2016 - January 2017), where we tried to discover and understand various aspects related to being a follower of Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.
We often start education cycles organised within the "Faces of Diversity" project from talking about prejudices and stereotypes. This enables us to get to know one another and recognise and name new areas that are worth having a closer look in the future. Such an introduction is carried out within two-day anti-discriminatory workshops available to all approved participants in a given cycle. This was also the case with the "Between Religions" programme, where during workshops the participants discussed stereotypes and prejudices related to the followers of Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, as well as of Judaism and Islam. The cycle also featured anthropological workshops focusing on the ways of celebrating as well as three seminars – on the attitude to tradition and modernity, on relations between women and men, and on secularism. The selection was not accidental. We wanted to have a look at various holidays in the three monotheistic religions due to the exceptional overlapping of a few of them in 2016 – the Islamic New Year with the Jewish New Year, and of Hanukkah with the Christmas Eve. Due to contemporary conflicts and the problem of ascribing meanings to and creating false interpretations of various religious practices by people of different faiths and non-believers, in the seminar we decided to have a look at openness to change and reforms and at contemporary challenges for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Representatives or researchers of those religions were invited to run the seminars: Piotr Kowalik, a historian and educator, deputy manager of the Polin Museum's Education Department, who outlined the Judaic perspective, Prof. Jan Grosfeld, a lecturer at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw (UKSW) and author of books (including "Czekanie na Mesjasza" (Waiting for the Messiah) and "Od lęku do nadziei: chrześcijanie, Żydzi, świat" (From Fear to Hope: Christians, Jews, and the World)) who described the Christian perspective, and Prof. Dr hab. Katarzyna Pachniak – the head of the University of Warsaw's Department of Arabic Studies, who presented the Islamic perspective. We considered the relations between men and women to be an important and controversial subject that is connected with the attitude to tradition and modernity. However, we decided the issue deserved a separate seminar. The seminar was run by Dr Marcela Kościańczuk of the Adam Mickiewicz University's Institute of Cultural Studies. In the 21st century, one cannot discuss the followers of particular religions without taking into account a growing group of non-believers, non-religious people and atheists. At a seminar run by Dr Magdalena Lubańska of the University of Warsaw's Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, we discussed the meaning of secularism and post-secularism.
Meetings in shrines and places of worship were an important part of the programme. They included the Roman Catholic Parish of Saint Andrew Bobola in Warsaw, the Warsaw Islamic Centre, and the Nożyk Synagogue. During the meetings, the participants had an opportunity to find out more about the architecture of those places and enrich their knowledge by asking questions related to the practical dimensions of practising Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The whole cycle featured open discussions that commented on the current public debates and focused on relations between the government and religious authorities, the attitude towards the death penalty, and challenges facing inter-religious dialogue. The discussions were run by a stable team of experts – Halina Bortnowska, a theologian, philosopher and columnist, Stanisław Krajewski, a philosophy professor and activist of the Jewish minority in Poland, and Andrzej Saramowicz, a translator, columnist and president of the Rumi Foundation of Poland.