It is named after Glasgow’s patron saint who brought the Christian faith to Scotland in the sixth century and is filled with works of art and artefacts exploring the importance of religion.

The only centre of its kind in the UK and one of just a few in the world dedicated to looking at all religions, St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art closed due to lockdown last March. However, the venue is yet to reopen as it was listed by operators Glasgow Life as having no scheduled reopening date prompting concern among volunteers at charity Interfaith Glasgow over its future.

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The group, which has worked to bring the city’s faith groups together, had led a campaign calling for the museum to reopen and a petition has now been signed by more than 3000 people.

Tonight (Thursday) leading experts in museums of religion will take part in a virtual international conversation about the Glasgow venue’s importance.

The event comes at a time when The Herald is leading A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign calling for the city’s venues and treasures to be funded appropriately and for both the Scottish and UK governments to come together to deliver a new funding plan for Glasgow’s culture and leisure services.HeraldScotland: St Mungo Museum closed due to lockdownSt Mungo Museum closed due to lockdown

Glasgow Life, the arms-length city organisation which runs culture and leisure on behalf of the city council, lost £38m last year due to lockdown and its estimated income for 2020/21 is around £6.4m. An agreed council funding deal will see Glasgow Life receive a guaranteed £100m for the next four years to open 90 out of its 171 venues. Without further funding, they say they cannot reopen any more venues. Around 500 jobs will go at the organisation over a five year period.

Rose Drew, chief executive of Interfaith Glasgow, which fosters friendship-building, dialogue, and cooperation between Glasgow’s diverse faith and belief communities, said: “The museum has huge significance and was set up in the early 1990s in consultation with Glasgow’s faith communities, but it has also allowed communities to come together and to build better relationships. It is full of artefacts which have been donated faith communities. What will happen to these if it doesn't reopen.

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“We have been making a bit of a noise about the museum and I think we would want to see proper consultation carried out so that Glasgow Life really understands how important the site is. St Mungo is about diverse faith communities and it is those communities who should be engaged with. We completely understand the financial pressures they are under in trying to work out where the money is going to come from, but any decisions should be made with consultation.”

St Mungo’s was set up in 1993 with support from the various faith communities in the city to promote mutual understanding and respect between people of different faiths and none. Over the years it has worked with people of all religion and belief backgrounds to promote good relations and to challenge discrimination. It also has an outstanding international reputation and has helped to inspire the creation of other museums of religion and related initiatives in other parts of the world.

Delivered by Interfaith Glasgow in partnership with the Centre for Intercultural Theology and Study of Religions, University of Salzburg, speakers at tonight's event include Professor Dr Wolfgang Reinbold, chairman of the House of Religions in Hanover and Brij Gandhi, MBE, who has been involved in St Mungo since its inception and feels very strongly about it significance to the city.

HeraldScotland: Interfaith Glasgow launched a petition for the museum to be reopenedInterfaith Glasgow launched a petition for the museum to be reopened

Mrs Gandhi, who has been involved in running interfaith groups as well as being the founder of the Meridian Black and Ethnic Minority Women’s Resource Centre, said: “I have put my heart into the museum and it has given me the chance to learn about different faiths. The building draws you in and has brought people together – it has brought peace.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: ‘We recognise the very significant role St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art has played in the religious life of the city and the continued importance of the role Glasgow Museums can play, alongside partner organisations. We also recognise the importance of interfaith dialogue and are committed to continuing to support this.

“For some time now, indeed significantly prior to the pandemic, Glasgow Life has been talking to Glasgow City Council and partners on the Cathedral Precinct about how to work better together to improve the visitor experience to the medieval heart of the city and the Cathedral Precinct. The purpose of the conversation has been to think about how to work together to make best use of the buildings and outside spaces.

“These conversations have been useful but are inevitably taking time to find the best way to work together on an ongoing basis and no concrete proposals have been presented for consideration or approval.

“As a result of the impacts of the Covid pandemic, St Mungo Museum has been closed for the past 18 months and the continued impact of the pandemic means that this will continue to be the case, meanwhile the time is being used to progress the discussions outlined above with partners.”