Sharing your faith? A guide to good practice

In its Mission Statement, the University of Sheffield aims "to inculcate in all a respect for the traditions of higher education and a commitment to the values of truth, toleration and justice." The University is a rich and diverse community where people offer many different perspectives on questions of faith and spirituality. The opportunity lies before us to work together to build a community rooted in the values we treasure. But this community can only be built on a sure foundation of mutual respect, openness and trust. This means finding ways to live our lives of faith with integrity, and allowing others to do so too. This guide to good practice offers the following guidance for encouraging and strengthening these relationships.

Building Good Relationships

Relationships should be characterised by good will, courtesy and respect. This means:

  • Respecting other people's freedom within the law to express their beliefs and convictions
  • Learning to understand what others actually believe and value, and letting them express this in their own terms
  • Respecting the convictions of others about food, dress and social etiquette and not behaving in ways which cause needless offence
  • Recognising the human worth and fallibility of others
  • Working to prevent disagreement from leading to conflict

Conversation with others

When we talk about matters of faith with one another, we need to do so with sensitivity, honesty and straightforwardness. This means:

  • Recognising that listening as well as speaking is necessary for a genuine conversation
  • Being overt and honest about our beliefs and religious allegiances
  • Not misrepresenting or disparaging other people's beliefs and practices
  • Correcting misunderstanding or misrepresentations not only of our own but also of other faiths whenever we come across them
  • Being straightforward about our intentions

Sharing your faith with others

All of us want others to understand and respect our views. Some people will also want to persuade others to join their faith. In the context of the University, the attempt should always be characterised by self-restraint and a concern for the other's freedom and dignity. This means:

  • Being sensitive and courteous
  • Being alert and attentive to cultural differences in our conversations
  • Respecting the right of others to disagree with us
  • Respecting another person's expressed wish to be left alone
  • Avoiding making random and unsolicited visits to students’ rooms
  • Avoiding imposing ourselves and our views on individuals or communities in ways which might be construed as exploitative or abusive, especially on those in vulnerable situations (e.g. loneliness, bereavement)
  • Avoiding violent action or language, threats, manipulation, intimidation, or the misuse of any kind of power
  • Producing publicity material for an event which is overt about its aims
  • Avoiding inviting people to an event under false pretences
  • Respecting the University’s regulations on leafleting and fly-posting
  • Working within the Senate’s Statement on Religious Activities on Campus

Living and working together is not always easy. A person´s faith harnesses deep emotions which can sometimes take destructive forms. Where this happens, we must draw on our faith to bring about reconciliation and understanding. We have a great deal to learn from one another which can enrich us without undermining our own identities. Together, listening and responding with openness and respect, we can work in ways that acknowledge genuine differences but build on shared hopes and values.