Jointly organised by the Edinburgh International Centre for World Spiritualities (EICWS) and the Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Learning (EIAL), the Festival included participation from Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities as well as Baha’is, Druzes, Zoroastrians and other traditions whose histories and communities are connected with what today is referred to as the Middle East.
In her conference paper, ‘Articulation of Shi‘i Ismaili Spirituality’, Dr Lalani began by positioning spirituality as a common feature to all traditions and contextualised Shi‘i spirituality with references to the Holy Qur’an and the role of the Shi‘i imam as teacher or spiritual guide. Tracing early, medieval and contemporary sources, Dr Lalani drew upon the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the early Shi‘i imams, works of classical Ismaili literature, the ginan tradition as well as the contemporary teachings of the present imam of the Nizari Ismaili community, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, to elucidate the basis of Shi‘i Ismaili spirituality. In addition, Dr Lalani reiterated the importance of the inner quest as a feature of spiritual awareness.
Dr Lalani was also one of several speakers asked to offer a peace prayer, which she drew from the Ismaili du‘a. In addition, she was invited to St George’s West Church to participate in a multi-faith forum of distinguished speakers from eight faith communities, all presenting their own conceptions of peace. In her paper, Dr Lalani discussed the concept of forgiveness – forgiving oneself and forgiving others – which she said was only possible if one was at peace with oneself, tying this to her understanding of the term islam – the personal surrender of oneself to God. This submission then radiates in our thoughts, actions and interactions amongst our fellow beings, which could in turn be instrumental for peace in the world.
In addition to the two-day conference, other activities during the Festival included: a public evening multi-faith Forum; an evening colloquium on science and spirituality; an interfaith meditation retreat; and a wide range of education, film, theatre, music, dance, storytelling, exhibition events and workshops.
The EICWS is a Scottish charity that works with the world’s spiritual and faith traditions, both in Scotland and internationally, seeking understandings of the nature of spirituality in its diversity.
The EIAL offers education and sponsorship for learning opportunities in applied spirituality, that is, the application of spiritual practice and experience to everyday life: peace studies, ecology and psychology. It is their hope that the Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace will develop into an annual Festival in Scotland.