YOU have got to have faith in the young people of Blackpool.
That is the message from youngsters after the town’s first Blackpool Inter-Faith Forum for Youth (Biffy).
The teens believe with the different religions working together they can combat ignorance and reduce bullying and intolerance among members of the next generation.
Workshops at the forum discussed some of the perceived problems caused by religion including international conflict, extremism and bullying.
Caroline Whitworth, 16, believes most come from a lack of understanding.
She said: “People blame war on religion but usually it is just an excuse being used by people to justify what they want to do anyway.
“Some associate Islam with extremism but most Muslims don’t believe in extremism, we hope through the forum we can help them understand things like that.
“In reality most faiths have the same moral values; it’s just the name of the God that differs.
“These are not just Blackpool issues but worldwide and we hope the forum enables young people to have their voice heard because one day we will be the leaders of these faiths.”
Leigh-Anne Peake, 17, hopes a better understanding of her Jewish beliefs would have prevented her school days bullying.
She said: “I’d rather people learn about my religion and ask questions if they want, rather than jump to conclusions and treat me differently because of it.
“I think we need a youth forum to get kids early because it is harder to educate people when they are older and have their set opinions. Kids are more open minded and willing to accept people for who they are.”
Varsha Jayanthi, 18, is a Blackpool Hindu.
She has not felt bullied but often gets mistaken for being Muslim.
She said: “A lot of people don’t realise how many different faith groups there are in Blackpool, there’s at least 10.
“Most people don’t know much about the faiths either. I get mistaken for Muslim all the time because they immediately associate Asian with Muslim.
“It’s good they respect that I have a faith but I would like more people to know about my religion and realise Hindu and Islam are two different religions.”
Representatives from numerous faiths took part in the event on Thursday which featured displays of religious artefacts, discussion workshops and the filming of an interfaith DVD which will be used in schools to help with the teaching of multiculturalism.
Pentecostal Christian Adam Drake, 17, added: “If you have a faith people often make fun of it but it is important to a lot of young people in Blackpool.
“I have seen the adult forum at work and look forward to young people having their say in the resort too.”
Biffy meets on Tuesday evenings at the Youth Service Training and Resource Centre on Whitegate Drive. To join them call Stuart Dunne on (01253) 754841.