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Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce

Celebrating World Religion Day

17 January 2021 | by Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce

World Religion Day started in 1947 and is observed to spread awareness and knowledge of the thousands of religions practiced in the world today, and to develop a shared tolerance and understanding between people of all faiths.

We spoke to Chloe Guy, Rachael Nicholl, Kaitlyn Whittaker, and Rosie Reid, all of whom are currently working or training in psychology.

Each has challenged themselves, learnt about the world, and become a positive force within it by exploring their potential with Project Trust.

As one of the original overseas volunteering charities for young people, Project Trust empowers the next generation of global citizens through long-term placements in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

These are their World Religion Day stories.

Chloe Guy

My Name is Chloe and I am a third year Psychology student at the University of Derby. I am hopeful to continue my academic career in Health Psychology at the university. My area of interest is Eating Disorders, specifically Diabulimia.

During my first year at university, I was lucky enough to travel to the beautiful and tiny island of Fiji. I soon realised that no amount of research could prepare me for what I was about to face.

I received a warm welcome when I was greeted by my host family. Each morning the family gathered together for breakfast and prayed to give thanks to God before we headed off to school.

Although I am not religious, I was eager to take part and fully immerse myself into their religious practices.

I found it surprisingly easy to give thanks for the food we received and spoke highly of the things we took for granted like our health and the company we were in. It was fascinating to explore religion from a cognitive viewpoint.

I believe it to be important to not only understand but experience religious culture.

Observing World Religion Day from a practical scientific viewpoint will allow the observer to gain a more insightful investigation.

Religious practices can lead to people functioning in unconventional ways that can give rise for challenges in psychology.

Racheal Nichol

I work as an Associate Psychologist for the NHS, delivering emotional well-being support and health behaviour change interventions. I am also completing a MSc in Health Psychology.

I volunteered with Project Trust in Ghana at St Michael’s School in Ve-Koloenu. It shared its site, and its governing members with the Roman Catholic church.

Daily prayers and weekly worship were prominent on the student’s timetables. Religion was a topic of almost every conversation whether it be regarding Christianity, or “Aminist” (traditionalist) and their influence on daily living and culture.

There are many opportunities for psychology and religion to intersect in clinical practice. I believe that to provide person-centred therapy effectively, faith-based values and perspectives must be considered.

Additionally, biblical scripture provides teachings on mindfulness, the influence of thoughts, meditation and much more.

All of which are evidence-based tools for emotional well-being, and why we should approach health from a biopsychosocial-spiritual model.

Religion influences our culture, law, and those around us. Recognising World Religion Day provides an opportunity for us to learn about others’ beliefs, cultivating compassion, harmony, and respect among individuals in society.

This is important as social experiences are a major contributing factor to an individual’s psychological and overall health.

Kaitlyn Whittaker

I volunteered in China with Project Trust in 2018/19, my project was in Jiamusi City in the North East of China.

I volunteered as an English teacher in both a kindergarten and a college for international nursing students.

I am currently studying Psychology with Developmental Disorders, alongside my studies I also work as a Homeless intervention worker where I help young people towards independent living and moving on to permanent housing.

Religion in China is not often spoken about publicly but can be seen throughout the country by numerous temples and statues. The temples are extremely beautiful and sacred to the people practicing Buddhism.

The main religion is Buddhism however, you can also find churches and mosques throughout the country.

Whilst volunteering I could see that Buddhism had a big influence on my students values which I think pushed them to achieve higher grades.

I think world religion day is important for psychologists as we interact with people from all different walks of lives who will also come from different religious backgrounds.

It is important to acknowledge different religions and how it can offer people inner peace and effect their values and the way they perceive the world.

Many people also turn to religion in a time of need which may include when they are suffering with poor mental health, as practitioners it is important to acknowledge this and celebrate it.

Rosie Reed

I studied Psychology alongside Religious Studies and Theology at university. The two subjects have always felt connected to me.

Religion is a wholly human experience which gives fascinating insight into individuals’ psychology.

During my time volunteering I lived in a village called Bolera, where a very tight knit community practiced Islam and Christianity next to each other.

I taught Bible studies as well as English in my school.

There were strong religious affiliations in the community shown through the large holidays; especially at Easter when I was invited to be part of the parade that travelled through the village with palm fronds.

Attending church in Bolera showed me just how powerful religion can be at creating bonds between humans.

I did not understand the words being spoken but I was still moved by the singing and passion that was shown.

Whilst in Malawi my respect for religion and the power it has to connect us was cemented.

Religion is a valuable resource to those who have faith, it brings peace, satisfaction, and purpose, something that can be useful to consider as an aid to encouraging mental wellbeing.

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