Faith, is typified as the concern of the aged, even though our everyday lives are inevitably affected by our faith and we really could not talk about the experience of being ourselves without talking about the experience of being of our faith. And yet, it seems to grow harder to talk about our faith based experiences at all, even on social media, where the rise of hate speech and extremist viewpoints are increasingly creating a stifling atmosphere where talking about any of this is difficult.
Challenging this growing sense of being silenced is the recently launched 'Get Up Speak Up' initiative. Formed by a team of BRAC University students, Get Up Speak Up aims to salvage that space for dialogue and to bring people together. Get Up Speak Up recognises that without this dialogue, there can only be growing rifts between people who do not have an informed idea about each other's lives and experiences.
Get Up Speak Up is primarily a campaign that runs online, through their Facebook page. However, as part of the project of taking back a space for discourse, the initiative held its first live event, a workshop titled "Matters of Faith", at the BRAC University campus on October 19, 2017. The workshop invited people of different faiths from BRAC University and elsewhere to come and talk about their experiences on issues such as interfaith relationships, inequity, discrimination, and even the celebration of the many different religious festivals and holidays of Bangladesh.
In an informal arrangement, seated simply in a circle, participants were first asked to discuss different aspects of being of their faith, like the ease with which they can practice their beliefs, inequities they might have faced at work or at school. With the conversation thus flowing, the participants discussed the nature of and reasons for these differences in their experiences. They were finally asked to ponder on possible solutions, which sparked discussions and debate among the participants which continued well after the workshop officially came to a close.
Faith is hardly a concern for only the aged. It touches all of our lives and shapes our lived experiences. The workshop made it clearer to the team behind the initiative that similar events need to be held at schools as well, given how real the need for these conversations is and how these issues touch the youth on a very personal level.
Rifat Rahman Turjo, a BRAC University student and participant in the workshop, said, “This is easily one of the best days I have spent at the university. I can't believe we actually got to have the discussion we did today, with people from outside the university too. With my midterms coming up in just a few days, this somehow helped my stress levels right now, like a weight lifted off my mind almost.”