The Scottish Religious Leaders’ Forum is a group dedicated to improving relationships between Scotland’s religious communities.
The Forum celebrated its 20th anniversary with a pilgrimage to Iona in September 2022.
There was much media interest in the Forum’s first meeting which one journalist described as being ‘as significant as the first ecumenical meeting of the Scottish Churches in the 1960s’.
Why was the Forum created?
The religious leaders of Scotland met for the first time in 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11.
The leaders of the three major Christian denominations in Scotland felt it was important for religious leaders to unite to condemn the atrocity and declare their commitment to peace. The three leaders were the Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh, Keith O’Brien; the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bruce Cameron; and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Finlay Macdonald.
The leaders asked Action of Churches Together in Scotland to organise the meeting, and Interfaith Scotland was brought on board to support it.
Who attended the first meeting?
The first meeting was held at Scottish Churches’ House, Dunblane on September 12th 2002.
Represented at that meeting were the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Rabbi from Scotland’s only Reform Synagogue and the Rabbi from Giffnock and Newlands Synagogue, the Abbot of Samye Ling Tibetan Monastery, a representative from Throssel Hole Buddhist Priory, the priest from the Hindu Temple in Glasgow who at that time was the only Hindu priest in Scotland, the Imams from the Central Mosque in Glasgow and from Glasgow’s Carrington St Mosque and the Chairperson of the Baha’i Council for Scotland.
There were also three representatives from the Sikh community who were not religious leaders.
What happened at the first meeting?
The meeting was jointly chaired by Kevin Franz, the General Secretary of ACTS and Rawdon Goodier, the Convener of Interfaith Scotland.
The meeting offered an opportunity for the religious leaders to get to know one another and share a symbol from their respective religions. This was a very moving and sacred moment.
Four of the religious leaders (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu) produced prayer beads as their symbol and talked about how they used them in their daily religious practice. Some of them commented afterwards how impressed they were not just by the commonality of the use of prayer beads but on how it spoke of a serious religious practice. This was a meeting of people who were not only leaders in their communities but people of serious religious commitment.
Over the years, the Forum has continued to unite to condemn atrocities happening around the world and to declare their commitment to peace.
The Scottish Religious Leaders’ Forum has continued to faithfully meet for over 20 years.
They meet twice a year in various places of worship, sacred islands and online (during Covid-19).
The Forum regularly meets with the First Minister of Scotland, and works together on important social issues such as;
- Addressing national and/or international crises
- Tackling homelessness
- Supporting the Make Poverty History campaign
- Addressing the climate crisis and COP26
- Supporting Scottish Interfaith Week
- Supporting refugees and asylum seekers
- Building friendship and dialogue
- Meeting teachers and pupils to discuss religion in schools
- Advising on religion in the media (including BBC and STV in-person engagements)
- Visiting each other’s places of worship
20th Anniversary celebration of the Scottish Religious Leaders Forum
For the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Religious Leaders Forum, members of the forum went on a three-day pilgrimage to the historic island of Iona. The Forum was joined by staff and board members of Interfaith Scotland, members of local interfaith groups, faith communities and chaplains.
On the last night, the Forum held an Interfaith Service in Iona Abbey and read their new Declaration of Commitment. Going forward the Forum is committed to working together for the common good of Scotland and beyond.
COP26 Interfaith Prayer and Meditation Vigil
This unique prayer and meditation vigil brought together people of all backgrounds in Glasgow and – via a livestream – around the world, in a powerful, symbolic act of unity and solidarity for our planet.
Religious leaders and faith community members came together in Glasgow’s main square, united in a common commitment to climate justice, to mark the beginning of COP26 and to launch Scottish Interfaith Week 2021, which shared the COP26 theme: ‘Together for Our Planet’.
Senior religious leaders read the ‘Glasgow Multi-Faith Declaration for COP26’, setting out the shared climate commitments of religious leaders across the UK, and led prayers from a great diversity of religious traditions.
The Glasgow Multi-Faith Declaration for COP26
The Glasgow Multi-Faith Declaration was signed by religious leaders and representatives from across Scotland and the United Kingdom.
It was a powerful united voice of faiths asking for serious action by Governments and others to address the Climate Crisis and create a positive vision for the future.