Case Study 3: Six Women’s Interreligious Dialogue Groups in London
This study is an investigation of social relations in the interreligious meetings and activities of six women’s interreligious groups in London. The groups were selected to include three from more prosperous middle-class suburbs and three from areas with a lower socio-economic character where women in particular often lead lives isolated from the rest of society. The study asks whether social capital is a condition for or product of interreligious dialogue. It relates the findings to concepts of social capital, in particular as developed by Robert Putnam. The relationship between ‘bonding’, ‘bridging’ and ‘linking’ capital is also analysed. For the middle-class, professional women interreligious activities were largely a continuation of the patterns and structures of existing social practices and networks. For many women of lower socio-economic and migrant backgrounds, interreligious activities constituted a new direction. In their cases interreligious activity helped develop personal capital, but the acquisition of that capital was nevertheless dependent on the mediation of trusted facilitators, institutions and structures to create the right conditions for engagement. While ‘bridging’ across religious difference was the declared purpose of the interreligious groups, the intensification of relationships through ‘bonding’, as women and ‘sisters’, was the powerful experience in all groups.
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