Religious zone is the only one not to preach

AMID THE noise and clamour of the Dome, visitors will be able to find a little peace and quiet in the faith zone. Despite the controversy about the Dome's spiritual content, the organisers have created a zone that explains facets of nine of the world's main religions without being overly religious.

In contrast to the other zones it is low-tech, but is still informative. The zone explains different aspects of each faith and is careful to ensure that it does not imply one is better than another. The Reverend Stephen Lynus, of the Lambeth Group, a multi-faith advisory panel that worked with representatives from all the religions, said: "We were under a lot of pressure from people who kept saying that the millennium is, after all, about celebrating the birth of a baby and we did it this way because, although it is predominantly a Christian festival, birth is a universal human experience whatever your faith."

Near the zone's entrancecameras project key phrases and symbols from each religion. And in the next section, which has a Christian focus, images have been chosen to sum up Christianity over the last 2,000 years, ranging from Durham Cathedral to symbolise worship, to the Ten Commandments to represent justice.

In the next area, the creators have tackled all nine faiths, which include Hinduism, Judaism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. Nine pillars, one for each faith, deal with themes ranging from birth and death to community.

Tim Gardam, who was responsible for the zone's content, said: "This was not a subject that you can treat with headlines and soundbites and we have structured it so that people don't have to read a whole essay on a subject. People can either pass through just looking up their own faith or they can learn something about others and enjoy their own contemplation."

In a quiet area to one side of the main path, death is represented by playing interviews with people who were dying, or who had lost beloved ones.

Visitors can also write a millennium message, which will be stored in a national archive for the next 50 years. "We started off thinking about interactive ideas but we were a bit stumped to find faith-based games and in the end we decided that we needed to make the information work in its own right," Mr Gardam said.

In the zone's centre is the much-talked about contemplation centre, a round room with a high ceiling tapering off into a cone and filled with a deep blue light.

Finally, visitors can contemplate the age-old principle of "Do as you would be done by" in the different ways that it is phrased by each religion.