Romena HUQ 

Institution: Scottish Forestry – UK

Contact: romena.huq@forestry.gov.scot

Keywords: Faith, Communities, Cultural Perceptions

Diversity has always been at the core of the Scottish Forestry work and at the heart of our culture.

The aim of the Central Scotland Engagement Programme is to increase the use of woodlands by people with protected characteristics. Since 2010 over 110 different diverse organisations have been engaged in a range of activities and events to encourage access and enjoyment of woodlands.

In Central Scotland it was clear that the majority of events and activities delivered within woodlands were based around Christian festivals with very few participants from ethnic minority communities or other faith groups. Most major faiths have a common thread linking them to nature and guardianship of the earth. This link was used to engage with groups and explore the opportunities that their local woodlands had to offer in helping them to celebrate their faith.

The faith groups engaged lead on the design, preparation and delivery of the celebrations with support from Scottish Forestry. We involved the Volunteer Community Champions who went through our training course some of whom are from the engaged faith community to inspire; encourage and break down the barriers to their groups accessing their local and urban woodlands.

There are inspiring visual images of over 20 faith celebrations including:

  • Holi: The Hindu Spring festival also known as the festival of colours. Activities included making natural coloured dyes representing the seven colours of Holi, fire building and Rangoli, on the forest floor.
  • LagB’omer: Jewish holiday there is a tradition of lighting fires in the memory of two rabbis; bows and arrows were made with native willow and a competition at the end of the day in reference to the rainbow, a symbol of divine protection.
  • Eid al Adha: Muslim festival which incorporates the story and rituals of the pilgrimage to Mecca, healthy woodland circular walks symbolised the Hajj and pilgrimage stations.
  • Vaisakhi: marking the Sikh New Year and Spring harvest. Environmental art in Spring colours was created along with health and wellbeing activities such as yoga and breathing workshops.

Interfaith: A series of interfaith sessions were delivered focusing on significant and holy trees in different faith traditions. A short film captured how all faiths share an appreciation of nature and care for the environment (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsuooxXSPAc).

Presentation: link