Interfaith Exchange is a collaborative, youth-led multimedia publication aiming to promote dialogue across faith lines
Mary was born in the United Kingdom and moved frequently around the country throughout her childhood. She was educated from the age of 10-18 at two boarding schools in the Midlands where she was a keen footballer. A Theology graduate of the University of St Andrews, Mary now works as a postgraduate research fellow for a think tank that specialises in army leadership.
Despite being an agnostic, she has always been passionate about defending everyone’s right to religious freedom and thus believes that no one, regardless of their religion, should experience religious persecution. Her undergraduate dissertation was on the topic of Islamic extremism in Pakistan with a view of combating Islamophobia by separating extremists from the religion of Islam itself. She also studied modules that focused on interfaith dialogue, notably Christian-Buddhist dialogue. Though her faculty was largely Christian and Europocentric, Mary later found her heart and mind drifting towards South Asia and the religion of Islam. This interest has led her to write articles that have been published in Pakistan.
Raahim Zafar was born in Lahore, Pakistan to a Shi’a Muslim family and moved to the UK at the age of 4. He has a triple honours degree in International Relations, Arabic and French. During university he served as President of St Andrews Muslim Students Association and was active on the interfaith scene, including through being Secretary of the Coexistence Initiative. Raahim’s contributions to interfaith events include writing and performing poetry on “Inspiring Women of Faith” and for Holocaust Memorial Day. He has also been on student radio to discuss “Meaning and Purpose” and “Justice from an Islamic Perspective.”
Raahim has informally studied Islam and other world religions since his teenage years and is soon to begin traditional Islamic Studies on a part-time basis. He believes in a holistic approach to knowledge: his research seeks to synthesise different fields of learning including dialectical theology, mysticism, political theory, global philosophical traditions, and modern psychology to address contemporary problems with renewed nuance.
Porter is from the US and grew up in a river town of the Hudson Valley before leaving to study for a bachelor’s in Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews. Raised in the Congregationalist Protestant tradition of the American north-east, with its emphasis on community-level governance and personal engagement with the divine, he would be encouraged from a young age to cultivate his own distinct framework for understanding spirituality. In his first year at university, he encountered the writing of the Japanese Sōtō Zen priest Shunryu Suzuki and the Mahayana-Theravada crossover meditation manual The Mind Illuminated which served as the starting point for his ongoing interest in Buddhist thought & practice. This would culminate in the summer of 2019 in a month-long residency at the Zen River monastery near the Waddensea in the Netherlands, on the subject of which he wrote his bachelor’s dissertation.
Porter has been involved with interfaith work since high school, when he served as a youth leader for his county’s interfaith board, and has continued to work as the representative for the University of St Andrews’ Buddhist Meditation Society on the university’s Interfaith Steering Committee and currently moderates a biweekly Scriptural Reasoning group which facilitates discussion and comparison between the Abrahamic faiths.