Barcelona’s Nit de les Religions was held on 12 and 13 September. The initiative, now in its fifth edition, continued to offer a programme packed with activities, many of which were held remotely to adapt to the current situation. Although there were fewer people than in previous years, more than 1,150 people attended talks, guided tours, concerts, etc., activities that were organised by 35 of the city’s religious communities and spiritual associations. A public success, given the current health situation.
Nit de les Religions [Night of Religions] is a day event that has been held annually for five years, during which various religious traditions and beliefs in Barcelona hold open an open day at their centres and invite all the city’s local residents to take part. Engaging with city residents and showcasing the city’s rich religious plurality are two of the goals that have already become established at this annual get-together. The main aim behind Nit de les Religions [Night of Religions] is to create and promote a space for meeting up, mutual knowledge and dialogue between city residents and religious and ethical communities and associations.
Nit de les of Religions uses inter-religious, interfaith, and intercultural dialogue to highlight how religious plurality is enriching and becoming part of Barcelona’s identity. Sponsored by Barcelona City Council and Obra Social “La Caixa”, the initiative is organised by the ‘UNESCO Association for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue (UAIID), led by its youth group.
This year’s edition was adapted to the current reality, set in a health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this year’s uncertainty, face-to-face activities with limited participation capacities, among other measures, continued to be offered and virtual-format activities were included for the first time. Some of these remote activities were organised by: Sokka Gakkai of Spain (Buddhism), the Barcelona United Evangelical Church (Evangelical Christianity), the Barcelona Bahá’í Community (Bahá’í Faith), the Adalil Culture and Spirituality Association (Islam), the Barcelona Chabad Lubavitch (Judaism), the World Brahma Kumaris Association (Brahma Kumaris), the International Pagan Federation of Spain (Paganism), the Wicca Celtibera (Neopaganism) and the Barcelona Protestant Church Centre (Evangelical Christianity). The Barcelona Israelite Community (Judaism) offer a hybrid face-to-face and online activity, enabling a larger number of people to take part. Guided routes or tours continued to be very successful, two having been organised by the Barcelona inter-religious and inter-convictional dialogue groups, more specifically, the Gràcia and the Raval branches. Some of the remote activities had over a hundred members of the public taking part, many of whom had been on a waiting list (as the technological tool did not allow more than a hundred connections).
Sergio Arévalo, one of the coordinators of Nit de les Religions remarked: “We were surprised by the great response from the public, and especially how the communities were up to date with all the technological issues, currently not just necessary for their usual activity but also for offering their activities during the two-day event.” And he added: “Some organisations, which maybe did not attract as many people as others in previous editions, were able to increase their number of visitors considerably by holding remote activities”. Considering the current health-crisis situation, Sergio Arévalo pointed out how “communities had very well established safety protocols, given that they already had those protocols well adapted to their daily lives”.
The official opening was held on Saturday, 12 September, at the Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes. During the ceremony, which was open to the public, speeches were given by the Commissioner for Intercultural Dialogue and Religious Pluralism at Barcelona City Council, Khalid Ghali; the Director of the Department of Interculturality and Social Cohesion at the “la Caixa” Bank Foundation, Francesc Ventura; the editor of Akiara Books, Inês Castel-Branco; the anthropologist and phenomenologist of religion, Xavier Melloni, and Montse Castellà, the Chair of AUDIR. There was a performance of music from several cultures, given by Monika Czyżewska (Western concert flute) and Alejandro Mateo (baroque violin).
The Commissioner for Intercultural Dialogue and Religious Pluralism at Barcelona City Council, Khalid Ghali, argued that “for freedom of faith and conscience to be truly possible, we need to work in the framework of secularism, so that all world views and options of conscience (whether or not religious) can coexist and cooperate with equal opportunities. But besides the right to the expression of faith, religious and ethical organisations and traditions contribute priceless wealth and value to cities such as Barcelona. They are part of a common good, a historical, cultural and human good that must be guaranteed and preserved”. Francesc Torradeflot, the Director of AUDIR, made a few statements before the official opening, remarking that: “Civil society’s religious communities and organisations have played a key role during the lockdown, often supporting the most vulnerable from material, emotional and spiritual perspectives. Nit de les Religions has also joined the spirit of accompaniment and proximity.”
This year’s edition of Nit de les Religions had a special resonance in the mass media. Many newspapers, radio stations and digital and paper media publicised and introduced this activity promoting people’s knowledge and values. Media that published articles, interviews and news items included the following: TV3, BTV, ‘El Punt Diari’, ‘La Vanguardia’, the weekly ‘Alfa y Omega’ (supplement to the newspaper ‘ABC’), the programme ‘El Mirall’ (from Cadena COPE), ‘Diari de Girona’, ‘Catalunya Religió’, ‘Flama – Agència Cristiana de Notícies’, the magazine ‘Valors. Filosofia de l’actualitat’, the programme ‘Valors a l’alça’ (from Mataró Ràdio), the programme ‘Paraules de vida’ (from Catalunya Ràdio), etc..
This year’s edition, despite all the necessary safety protocols, allowed Nit de les Religions to continue its main goal: creating and promoting a space for meeting up, mutual knowledge and dialogue between Barcelona’s residents and religious and ethical communities and associations. A day event for discovering the plurality of beliefs, spiritual traditions and confessions of the city’s residents, for interacting with them and thereby helping to eliminate prejudices, stereotypes and hate speeches.