Encounters is a groundbreaking project developed by artist Nicola Green.
For the past decade, Green has been a witness to meetings of religious leaders around the world, from the UK to Italy, Israel, Egypt, Qatar, India, and the United States. She has had the privilege to meet with Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Sikh, Baha'i, Jain, Confucian, Humanist, Shinto, and indigenous leaders. Along the way, she won the confidence of figures including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Pope Francis, former Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa, Emeritus Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama.
These meetings have gone largely unreported in the media, and there has been limited reflection about the encouraging trend that they represent. Green makes a compelling case through her art and writings that we have entered a new era in interreligious relations. What is remarkable today is the depth of relationships being formed by faith leaders across historically deep divides. Often for the first time in history, these religious leaders have begun to sit down together and consider possibilities for cooperation, dialogue, and friendship. Together, they are leading the way towards a dialogue which respects and honours other religions, without compromising the truth of their own traditions.
At its heart, the Encounters project is an exploration of difference. It asks: how can people of different faiths, or none, communicate strongly held convictions, whilst respectfully allowing others to do the same? What can be gained from such encounters, and how can we identify common goals whilst working from different perspectives? And how can deep religious commitments become an asset rather than an impediment to understanding and appreciating diversity? Green invites viewers to think about our relationship to those we consider wholly ‘other’ to ourselves, and how this, in turn, shapes our own identity.
These are complicated, searching questions. To think about their implications, Green has enlisted the expertise of respected scholars in theology, cultural studies, history, art history, sociology, and psychology from around the world. She has collaborated extensively with King’s College London, Cambridge University, and Coexist House to produce her ambitious project: Encounters. She is proud to share the results of this project in three key formats: an exhibition, lecture series, and book.