Etiquette Guidelines for Individual Faiths
The guidelines below were written by members of each of the religious communities listed. Click on a religious group below to view those guidelines, or scroll down to view all guidelines.
written By Natalie Mobini-Kesheh (Australian Bahá'í Community)
There are no restrictions on shaking hands or other formal interaction with members of the opposite sex.
Bahá'ís sometimes greet one another with the phrase "Allah-u-Abha," which means "God is Most Glorious".
The Bahá'í Faith does not have any equivalent to a priesthood.
Elected institutions look after the affairs of the community at the local, state and national levels. Any adult Bahá'í, male or female, can be elected as a member. Authority rests with the institutions rather than the individual members.
At a formal inter-faith function, representatives of the Bahá'í institutions should be seated with the leaders of other religions.
Places of worship
The Bahá'í House of Worship or temple is open for people of all backgrounds to pray or meditate.
Apart from formal services of worship, silence should be observed while in the House of Worship. Visitors should dress respectfully but there are no specific dress requirements.
Bahá'ís are not permitted to consume drugs or alcohol (other than for medical reasons). There are no other dietary restrictions, although a simple diet is encouraged.
By Sister Thubten Chokyi (Vajrayana Institute, Sydney)
Sangha (ordained monks and nuns) Etiquette
Buddhist generally observe the following protocols when assisting ordained Sangha (ordained monks and nuns) as a gesture of respect to our Teachers, and to promote harmony in our practice of dharma.
• Acknowledge their presence with a smile and slightly bowed head
• It is customary to address ordained monks and nuns as Venerable
• Please do not interrupt when they are talking
• More senior sangha members, may be accompanied by an attendant and/or translator
• No intentional physical contact with any Sangha, including their robes
• Indicate for Sangha to go through the door first before you
• Please walk behind Sangha and do not barge through or walk in front of them.
• Ordained sangha are traditionally seated in ordination order in the front rows, monks on one side and nuns on the other, though this is not necessary for public events. It is polite to sit only after the Sangha are seated.
• Buddhist books and texts are the Buddha's words. Please do not step over them, place them on the floor or ground, or place items on top of them. The same applies for images (statues, photos or artwork).
• When selecting passages for Buddhists to read at Interfaith events, if at all possible, avoid prayers that make petitions to a God or Saviour
At Buddhist events, monks and nuns are generally offered food first.
Most Buddhist monks and nuns (not all) are vegetarian. Some do not eat after midday. When inviting to events, check to ensure that they are able to eat before midday, if necessary. Some do not eat what are called black foods, ie meat, eggs, onion, radish, garlic.
By Vijai Singhal (Secretary, Hindu Council of Australia)
Hindus greet each other by folding their hands and saying ‘Namaste' or ‘Namaskar', meaning "I bow to the God in you". Kissing or handshake, especially with the members of the opposite sex is not considered appropriate.
The religious leaders like Gurus, Swamis and Pandits are treated with great respect. Hindus touch the feet of religious leaders to obtain their blessings. They bow in front of the religious leaders with folded hands to greet them.
Parents and elder citizens are also treated with respect. Hindus are taught to greet their elders by bowing to them with folded hands and even touching their feet to obtain their blessings.
Women are also treated with respect.
There are different levels of spiritual/religious leaders in Hinduism.
1. Guru - also known as Acharya, meaning teacher of spiritual knowledge. He may also be called a Swami, who generally puts on orange clothes. He has renounced the worldly pleasures and devote his life in search of the divine truth through meditation, devotion and prayers to the Almighty God. He imparts his spiritual knowledge and wisdom to the householders and the lay people. The Guru can also be a female. She may be called a Pravarajika or Mataji (meaning: Reverend Mother).
2. Pujari or Pandit - a person who is well versed in the rituals and religious customs. They include temple priests. He or she performs Puja, a ritualistic offering to deities in the Hindu Temple or at various occasions like marriage ceremonies, child naming ceremonies and various Hindu festivals.
Seating near the Religious leaders
Generally a religious leader will be offered a higher place to sit and a respectable distance is to be maintained. While sitting on the floor we should not point our feet towards the religious leader.
Also we should be appropriately dressed while in the company of a spiritual leader.
Temples and places of worship
Hindus remove their shoes before entering a Temple or a place of worship in any house. Even entering a Hindu person's house shoes are generally removed near the entrance to the house.
The statues of the deities should not be touched. Prayer is offered with folded hands.
A majority of Hindus are vegetarians and even those who eat meat will not eat beef or pork.
On religious festivals and religious places meat is not to be served.
By Peta Jones Pellach (Shalom Institute, University of NSW, Sydney)
Members of the Jewish faith observe religious laws and customs to various degrees and this is reflected in those who may represent the Jewish community in interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue. In order to cater to the most observant and traditional, the following guidelines may be useful:
The preferred greeting for a Jewish person is 'shalom', meaning 'peace'. Most Jews, including Rabbis, are happy to be addressed by their first names but it is traditional to give respect to age and it is appropriate to ask permission to address a Rabbi or an older person by first name. In general, Rabbis from Australia and Israel prefer to be addressed as Rabbi SURNAME but younger American Rabbis sometimes prefer Rabbi GIVEN NAME. While most Jews are not strict in their observance of laws of 'modesty', many Orthodox married men and women prefer not to touch people of the opposite gender. This includes hand-shaking. It is preferable not to extend your hand to a Jewish delegate of the opposite gender until you have established their level of observance of this precept.
Many Jews adhere strictly to the laws of 'kashrut' (eating 'kosher'). This limits not only the types of food eaten but is also affected by the utensils in which food is prepared and on which it is served. In order to make it possible for all Jews to join a meal, advice should be sought on what products are acceptable and how they can be served. Fresh, uncooked fruits, vegetables and nuts are the safest (although it is best not to cut fruit and vegetables with knives or on cutting boards previously used.) Beverages other than wine should be served in disposable or glass cups or glasses. (Only kosher designated wines are acceptable.) If it is possible, ask Jewish delegates what their level of observance is and seek their advice on catering. It is important to remember that it may not be good enough to purchase products known to be kosher if they are not served appropriately.
Although there are some Jews who are happy to participate in interfaith activities over the Jewish Sabbath (sunset Friday until nightfall on Saturday), organisers of events over this time will need to be aware that the Jewish delegates cannot represent the organised community and will not be considered 'legitimate' representatives by members of the Orthodox community. The same is true for a number of other holy days through the year.
Jews and Christians share many ethical and theological principles but differ on the role of Jesus, so respect for Jewish sensitivities would involve selecting prayers and blessings that avoid mention of Jesus.
By Jamila Hussain (Lecturer, BA, LLB (Syd), DipEd (UNE), Dip Shariah Law Practice, MCL (IIU))
Muslim communities in Australia are very diverse, coming from about 70 different countries with a variety of cultures. People within them are also diverse in their opinions & degree of religious commitment - from the extremely strict to those who are just ‘cultural' Muslims who are easy going about everything. However, as a general guideline:
Pork (ham, bacon & anything made from it like continental sausages, and many pizza toppings) are forbidden. Many Muslims will not eat other meats or chicken unless they are halal (permitted). There are lots of halal butchers in major cities, so halal meat is not difficult to obtain these days. Fish is always halal and vegetarian food is always acceptable. Most Muslims will eat prawns and similar seafood but a minority will not. Food such as pastry will not be halal if it is made with lard or animal sourced ingredients.
Alcohol is prohibited. Some Muslims will not attend an event if alcohol is served; others will come but will not drink alcohol. Perhaps make some discreet inquiries when drawing up the invitation list.
Most Muslims dress conservatively according to their particular culture but don't expect others to. For youth functions, including pool or beach parties and sporting events, very few Muslim women will swim or wear beach wear in the presence of the opposite sex.
Some Muslims, male & female, will not shake hands with the opposite sex, because it involves touching an unrelated male/female. Others take their cue from the host & if a hand is offered, will shake it. It is preferable to be aware of this and not be offended if a proffered hand is not taken, because no offence is intended.
Seating at functions
Very strict Muslims will not sit with unrelated people of the opposite sex (they are a minority).
Sometimes functions cut across prayer times which vary throughout the year. It is appreciated if a clean quiet place can be made available for prayer, when needed.
An etiquette guide, compiled by the Christian Muslim Forum, for Christian/Muslim gatherings can be found here
By Mina Singh (Member of Women's Interfaith Network representing Sikh faith; Executive Convenor for Interfaith and Race Relations of the NSW United Nations Association in Australia)
Firstly, Sikh means a student who is learning from a Guru, meaning teacher or guide. When you teach me something of wisdom, you are my Guru and I am your Sikh and vice versa.
Guru Granth (Sikh Scripture) to a large extent is quite an interfaith scripture, because it contains the wisdom poems and couplets from Hindu Rishis and Munis, from Vedic and Upanishad philosophy, from Muslim Pirs, Sufis and Qur'an, from Scheduled Caste wise saints and scholarly Pandits, from Buddha's and Mahavir Jain's divine foresight, besides Guru's wisdom philosophy in poetry. It also criticises the wrong practices and fanaticism of all religions of that time in India, for example Sikh Gurus denounced the caste system and the forced conversions which hurt the human population.
Every religious scholar is welcome to talk about the sacred content of their faith in a Gurudwara (Sikh shrine). They are welcome to recite and share in Kirtan (spiritual devotional songs). Golden Temple Amritsar had regular Muslim singers up until the Partition of India.
Every religious scholar is welcome to talk about the sacred content of their faith in a Gurudwara (Sikh shrine). They are welcome to recite and share in Kirtan (spiritual devotional songs). Golden Temple Amritsar had regular Muslim singers up until the Partition of India. The foundation of Golden Temple was laid by a Muslim Pir named Mian Mir.
Everyone must enter a Gurudwara without shoes and cover their head in the congregation hall. They can sit side by side with the devotees. Mostly men and women sit separately facing each other. Then Parshad (consecrated sweet cereal pudding understood as a blessing from the Guru) is distributed to every attendee after the religious service. In every Gurudwara, meals are served to all, even if the people are in thousands. Everyone sits and eats side by side irrespective of caste, creed or class. In fact, backpackers from many countries look for Gurudwaras for a tasty vegetarian meal when they visit India, and they can stay the night as well. The idea is to perpetuate equality and universal brotherhood. Men and women both cook and serve voluntarily with respect and love. Some historical Gurudwaras have a tradition of washing the pilgrim's feet in running water prior to entering the congregation hall. No one has ever been questioned or prohibited from entering the Gurudwara.
Sikh practices and beliefs include adhering to monogamy in family life, working honestly to provide for the family, sharing one's bounty with the needy and disabled, and never smoking or begging. Mother is most respected in the family. Sikhs respect the faith of others and do not see it as their role to judge the religious beliefs of another person. There is no hierarchy of priestly class in Sikh religion. Any one, a man or a woman, can perform religious duties. Because the whole Guru Granth (Sikh scripture) is in poetry to be sung in prescribed classical Indian Ragas, proficient musicians are sought after to sing those spiritual poems. There are trained religious scholars who are attached to Gurudwaras for regular duties and are called Granthis. All the above performers are paid for their services. They are well respected. When a Sikh enters the Gurudwara woship hall, he kneels down with folded hands in front of the Guru Granth which is the centre of sanctity.
Sikhs greet each other with folded hands and say "Sat Sri Akaal" meaning Truth is immortal. Youngsters are very respectful to their elders and are recipients of their blessings. Devoted Sikh men normally adorn turban and beard but there are perhaps greater numbers of them who do not keep hair & beard and are called "Sehajdhari" meaning followers in serenity (not orthodoxy).