Hackney – Community Conversations

Hackney ahoy!  Hackney CC

If you live or work in Hackney, join the Christian Muslim Forum & LBFN friends on Monday 9 June 12.30pm – 3pm at Hackney CVS, Springfield House, 5 Tyssen St, E8 2LY, for Community Conversations.  Download the flyer here.  We’ll be

  • opening up conversations, beginning with gentle relationship-building questions but moving on to key local issues
  • listening to voices of marginalised communities (and sharing stories on websites and social media)
  • supporting engagement between local Christians, Muslims & people from different traditions
  • creating opportunities for local Christians, Muslims & others to meet (where these are not already taking place), especially in ongoing groups/pairings
  • where appropriate, developing social confidence and conversational skills

Hackney CVS is providing a lovely place for us to meet and will be joining in our conversations, as will Sonia Khan, Head of Policy at Hackney Council.  Julian Bond, Director of the Christian Muslim Forum, will be facilitating the afternoon.

It’s a good opportunity to link up across the borough in a relaxed and enjoyable way.  Please pass on this invitation to anyone you know in Hackney who would be interested.

Light refreshments will be available at 12.30pm and the conversations will kick off after that, ending at 3pm.  The event is free of charge, but please let LBFN or CMF know by Thursday 5 June if you’re hoping to join us.

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Biking through London – support CMF’s work

boris bikesJoin Julian Bond, Director of the Christian Muslim Forum and an old friend of LBFN, is cycling around Zone 2 (roughly) on a succession of Boris bikes on Thursday 29 May 7-11am!

He’s raising funds for the good work of the Christian Muslim Forum – if you can’t join him for a leg of the Tour de Londres or offer him a cuppa, sponsor him by the mile on his JustGiving site.

LBFN’s Convener will be joining him at around 9am at Waterloo (outside LBFN’s office) and will try to keep up with him as he cycles to his next stop.  More details of the route (starting at Euston station, then Camden Town, Hackney, Bethnal Green, Mile End, Isle of Dogs, Southwark, Imperial War Museum, Westway & Regents Park) are on the CMF website.  Julian says,

“Let me know if you think I will be anywhere near your church or mosque (or synagogue, temple or gurdwara).”

Bon voyage Julian!

 

Conversations for the Soul

John Woodhouse (Westminster Cathedral Interfaith Group) writes . .

We met at South London Islamic Centre in a converted fire station near St Leonard’s Streatham. Mr Mohamed Ijaz provided sandwiches and tea and Zahra Imame from the Christian Muslim Forum set the ground rules and facilitated our conversations. The idea is to talk in pairs about subjects from the St Ethelburga’s booklet. There is a wide choice ranging from food to more difficult issues like faith and violence and the topic is chosen by your partner and yourself. There is no need to feedback from the conversations which are confidential.

John Woodhouse & members of Conversations for the Soul group

John Woodhouse (red jumper) & members of the Conversations for the Soul group

A month later we met again and this time we were joined by a Buddhist. Through him we were able to organise to meet at the SGI-UK Buddhist South London National Centre, 1 Bernays Grove, Brixton SW2, on June 26th and July 3rd. The plan is to return to a South London mosque in the autumn.

I have taken part in these conversations at Bethnal Green, the Whitechapel Idea Store and St Ethelburga’s. The booklet is excellent and offers a lot of choice and I have found the conversations most stimulating. Pope Francis says in Evangelium gaudii The Joy of the Gospel (which is very well worth reading and an easy read)

“Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities. This dialogue is in the first place a conversation about human existence or simply, as the bishops of India have put it, a matter of ‘being open to them, sharing their joys and sorrows’. In this way we learn to accept others and their different ways of living, thinking and speaking. We can then join one another in taking up the duty of serving justice and peace…. These efforts can also express love for truth”. (para 250)

It took a lot of negotiating and patience to set up these conversations and the help and support of the Christian Muslim Forum and the South London Inter Faith Group were vital. I came away stimulated and inspired by the encounters.   John Woodhouse

Download the Westminster Cathedral Interfaith Group’s current programme here and contact John for further details about this and his Conversations for the Soul groups.

What’s On

A quick round-up of activities in London over the next couple of months, for activists and thinkers alike.  Plenty to get our teeth into – enjoy!

sfmhThursday 24 April 12.30-2pm South London Inter Faith Group informal lunch meeting at Streatham Friends Meeting House, Redlands Way, SW2 3LU.

Tuesday 29 April, 6pm – 8pm Multifaith Hustings for the European Elections at the Karibu Education Centre, 7 Gresham Road, Brixton, SW9 7PH, organised by Faiths Together in LambethFurther details here.

PortcullisLogoTuesday 29 April 6.30pm at the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, Westminster, SW1A 2LQ.  Building Communities In An Age Of Change, with GlobalNet21 & Community Development Network London. Speakers include Andy Sawford MP & Steve Wyler of Locality.  Details here.

hfof_logo_no_strapWednesday 30 April 7.15 to 9pm Women’s Discussion Group (discussion, support and friendship) Hounslow Friends of Faith, Hounslow Community Centre, Montague Road, Hounslow TW3 1JY.  Details here.

Wednesday 7 May 6.30pm at St Paul’s Cathedral, EC4M 8AD. Climate Change: Building the Will for Action with Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Download the flyer here & book a place here.

www.faithstogetherincroydon.org.ukThursday 8 May 7 – 9 pm Faiths Together in Croydon event on Interfaith Marriage at CVA, 82 London Road, CR0 2TB. Contact Matt at matt@victoriascottpainter.com.

Saturday 10 May 7.00-8.15pm Conversations for the Soul (one to one interfaith conversations about beliefs and practice) at the South London Islamic Centre, 8 Mitcham Lane, SW16 6NN.  Details from John Woodhouse on 020 8677 0588 or 0790 8888 586 or email woodhousesopten@btinternet.com.

Sunday 11 May 2.30pm Lambeth Multi-faith Action Group. Faith in lamag-spring-event-2014Education at Corpus Christi Church Hall, Brixton Hill, SW2 5BJ.  Speakers include Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, Sarah Thorley and Fr Joseph Briffa SJ.

Monday 12 May 6 for 6.30pm at 77 Great Peter Street, London, SW1P 2EZ  Atheists: the Origin of the Species with Nick Spencer of Theos (book launch and discussion).

peace bird v smallTuesday 13 May 9.45-11.45am London Peace Network planning group meets in central London, probably in the Euston Road area.  The Peace Network was brought together by LBFN to promote the Olympic Truce and to support local peace-building. Visit the website to see what is planned and let LBFN know if you’d like to join us for the planning meeting – you would be most welcome.  Check LPN on Facebook.

Tuesday 13 May12.00 to 13.30 Lunchtime Dialogue in Whitechapel with the Christian Muslim Forum. A regular session based on Conversations for the Soul (tandem dialogue between people of different faiths) on the second Tuesday of each month. More details from CMF here.

GoldsmithsWednesday 14 May 5-7pm Faiths & Civil Society Unit, Goldsmiths.  Faith in the Public Realm Dilwar Hussain of New Horizons in British Islam at lecture room RHB 137. Registration and more details here.

Wednesday 14 May 5.30pm to 7.00pm.  RUSI, 61 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2ET.  How has religion become an agent in peace-building in conflict areas of the world?  Westminster Faith Debates.

london-interfaith-centre-logoWednesday 14 May 18.30 Narrative Practitioners Forum – for those who use personal narrative and story in their work to share best practice and learn from each other. At the London Inter Faith Centre, 125 Salusbury Road, NW6 6RG. With St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation & Peace, the Forgiveness Project, International School of Storytelling and Guerrard Hermes Foundation for Peace. £10. Book here.

Friday 16 May  Deadline for call for abstracts (invited from scholars and relevant practitioners) for an academic workshop Sense of Belonging in a Diverse Britain. Wide range of papers welcomed. Workshop organised by the Dialogue Society and Coventry University on 20-21 November in Coventry.

Thursday 29 May 10.30-15.00 Religion and Belief in Higher Education conference at SRHE, 73 Collier Street, London, N1 9BE. Papers include one on the social and academic experiences of Christian, Sikh, Muslim and Jewish students. £60. Details here.

chris2-300x169Tuesday 10th June to Thursday 12th June: Understanding Islam, a three day course with Dr Chris Hewer and the Faithful Friends group in Ham, Richmond. More details from Diana Mills at dianamills@phonecoop.coop.

Saturday 14th June 9.45am-6pm Westminster Interfaith’s 29th Annual Multi-Faith Pilgrimage for Peace – this year in Haringey.  This is always a popular event – booking form & contacts here and more details in the latest newsletter here.

Monday 16 June  Reflections of Jesus and Muhammad, or Distortions?  Day conference with the Christian Muslim Forum and several leading speakers at Abrar House, Crawford Place, nr Edgware Road W1H 4LP.  Details & registration here.

enorb logoTuesday 17 June – Wednesday 18 June  European Network on Religion & Belief AGM in Brussels, Belgium. Grassroots practitioners from across Europe gathering together, with Matthew Goodwin (Nottingham University) speaking on the far right in Europe and the impact of the recent elections.  This is a free event (reasonably priced accommodation available), with a visit to the European Parliament and Commission included. Further information & registration here.  LBFN has been part of ENORB from its inception.

Christian_Muslim_Forum_LogoThursday 26 June 18.30 to 21.00  Multiculturalism – Problem or Solution?  How do we all fit together, what kind of society do we live in, is it working?  Speakers include Dan Nilsson DeHanas, Akeela Ahmed, Ajmal Masroor, Revd Alan Green (Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum).  £5. Details from the Christian Muslim Forum.

Members of Kingston Inter Faith Forum & South London Inter Faith Group appeared on Sky News on Monday, sharing views following the Prime Minister’s Easter message.  View the clip here.

headingGreater London Presence & Engagement has produced a helpful briefing (Susanne gave us a sneak preview at our last meeting) to the controversy surrounding ‘religious slaughter’ – download it here.

At LBFN’s last meeting at DCLG we agreed to form several ‘social labs‘.  Our regular meetings are very successful at bringing a wide range of practitioners together from across the capital, but there are too many of us now to discuss our concerns in depth each time.  Have a look at the Social Labs page and let the convener know which one(s) you’d like to be involved with – there are six to choose from.

waterA few borough networks are refreshing their ideas, getting involved in new activities and attracting new members.  Contact LBFN if you’d like to meet up with similar faith forums/multifaith networks to share experiences.  Our Waterloo office is a perfect meeting space, with its informal cafe and plenty of space.

Please pass news on to your communities and networks and let LBFN know if you have any events, publications, job opportunities or news you would like to share.

Keep in touch via email.  And if you are on Facebook, please ‘like’ LBFN’s page https://www.facebook.com/LondonBoroughsFaithsNetwork and use it to link to your own activities.  LBFN’s convener tweets @multifaith and is always happy to find LBFN friends on Twitter.

 

Upcoming events

London 2014 rThere’s plenty on in London to get 2014 off to a great start!

20 January 9.30am – 4.10pm  A Conversation about Conflict exploring the faith influences that can be used to tackle difficult issues in a community setting.  St Ethelburga’s and Christian Muslim Forum are co-facilitating the workshop at 305 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9LH.  Details here.

  • Could your faith community improve the way it responds to conflict?
  • Are you interested in bringing the principles and practices of your faith into your responses to conflict?
  • Are you interested in sharing your faith practices across faiths and learning from each other?

22 January 10am-12pm Together in Service funding briefing at Bethnal Green Mission Church, 305 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9LH.  There’s also a chance to talk to the TiS team individually about potential projects.  Details here.

22 January 6.30-8pm  Poverty and the Tolerance of the Intolerable – talk by Prof Amartya Sen at LSE . The talk will be live-streamed on LSE’s website and a podcast made available. Details here.

27 January  Holocaust Memorial Day events have been been organised by many London boroughs in cooperation with local religious communities, including Barnet, Lewisham, Haringey, Southwark, Greenwich, Croydon, Brent, Lambeth, Hounslow and Havering.  Details of all London events here.

27 January 5.30pm European Parliament training event with Faiths Forum for London at Europe House, Smith Square, W1.  The aim is to engage with citizens and faith groups to raise awareness of the issues and debates taking place in European Parliament and how citizens can get involved the decision making. Details here.

South London Inter Faith Group meets on the last Thursday of the month at 12.30-2pm at Streatham Friends Meeting House, Roupell Park Estate, Redland Way, SW2 3LU.  Next meeting 30 JanuaryDetails here.

4 February 6pm The Dialogue Society Book Group Meeting 5: A Distant Shore, by Caryl Phillips The Dialogue Society, 402 Holloway Road, N7 6PZ.  Details here.

Westminster Faith Debates are back with a new series, on global religious trends, at RUSI, 61 Whitehall, SW1A 2ET at 5.30pm, including on 12 February What is driving sectarian violence in the wake of the Arab spring? and on 12 March Are attempts to promote worldwide religious freedom naive or necessary?  Details here.

18 February Women in the 21st Century conference at Queen Mary University, London E1 4NS with a wide range of speakers and workshops (£40). Details here.

Westminster Cathedral Interfaith Group meets next to the Cathedral in Victoria on the third Wednesday of the month at 4pm.  Upcoming speakers include Hugo Clarke (Curzon Institute) on World War 1 (19  February), Raheed Salam, faith and interfaith consultant for NCVYS (19 March).  Details here.

11 March 3-5pm  London Boroughs Faiths Network meeting at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Eland House, Bressenden Place, SW1E 5DU.  We are also planning two focused meetings on health and on young Londoners.

Goldsmiths’ Faiths and Civil Society Unit has a series on Faith in the Public Realm, including How do governments do God?  Warwick Hawkins MBE, Head of Faith Communities Engagement, Department for Communities and Local Government
12 March at 5pm.  Near Neighbours – can Christians do public faith for everyone? Dilwar Hussain, New Horizons in British Islam, 14 May at 5pm.  Details here.

15 March  God and Government Conference with Theos, covering welfare, religious freedom, multiculturalism, and education among others.  Details here.

Research Project on Attitudes to Self-Sacrificial Death for National and/or Religious Motives.  Prof John Wolffe (Professor of Religious History, The Open University) is interested to hear from anyone from a Catholic, Protestant or Muslim background who would like to take part in this study by being interviewed.  “In the run-up to the centenaries of the outbreak of the First World War (August 1914), of the Easter Rising in Dublin (April 1916) and of the Battle of the Somme (July 1916), we are developing a historical and contemporary study of British and Irish views on martyrdom and sacrificial death. We are interested not only in perceptions of events a century ago, but also in the way casualties have been regarded in events within living memory such as the Falklands War of 1982, the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland and IRA attacks in the mainland UK in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. We are also exploring more contemporary examples, notably reactions to the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings, to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the ‘Arab Spring’.”  Details here.

St George’s Day

st_georges_day_2013-1675006-hp

Google’s special logo for today, dragon and all.

Today is St George’s Day and many LBFN folk will be well aware that St George wasn’t born on Battersea Park Road – or anywhere else in England.  He was born in the Middle East and continues to be well respected by the people there.

The Christian Muslim Forum is encouraging us to call upon all people of goodwill to:

  • stand up against the hijacking of a national hero by those who promote Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination 
  • oppose the modern ‘dragons’ of hatred and intolerance
  • say: ‘As the diverse people of England, we are comfortable with difference, and each other. St George’s Day is a time for highlighting harmony and peaceful national pride.’

Those of us involved in Hate Crime Forums with the police and in other anti-discriminatory activities may have an opportunity to celebrate St George’s Day by enjoying

st george flaga new, relaxed and confident, English national identity. A place where a hijab is as welcome as bangers and mash, and no-one is attacked for their race, religion (or lack thereof) or any other belief.

Find the full text here and CMF’s page here.  The twitter stream is #stgeorge4all.

Reflections | LBFN’s February meeting

Samovar1

John Woodhouse kindly lent us this beautiful samovar from Moscow for our Tea in Multifaith Europe in November.

We didn’t use the samovar last Thursday, but the London Church Leaders treated us to refreshments at Westminster Central Hall.

It was Elizabeth Simon’s last day as their Executive Officer and she shared her reflections over the last 14 years. You can read here her perceptive account of the relationship between faith communities in the capital and government policy – the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’ – within a changing national and international context.

Further contributions led to a rich discussion on regeneration, consultation, engagement, integration, empowerment, commissioning and the community co-production of public services.  Wider thoughts on the enduring role of religious groups in social action were explored and how working in partnership with the local public sector can benefit the wider community, particularly those who depend on public services the most.  How do we work closely with the public sector on strategy and service delivery whilst maintaining our place in public life, contributing to the public conversation – faith in the public square?

Karen Walkden of Flourishing talked us through a mindmap analysing the trends for faith groups in 2013.  She highlighted how recent changes have made it difficult to be commissioned to provide services, “smaller organisations supporting specific communities can only get local authority funding if they are part of a consortium”.  She added further comments by email.

Steve Miller & Bessie White (centre) at one of last year's meetings.

Steve Miller & Bessie White (centre) at one of last year’s meetings.

Steve Miller of the Faith-based Regeneration Network looked at national government’s evolving attitude to religious and multireligious groups involved in social action in recent years – from ad hoc co-option of useful individuals to more formal consultations and instrumentalism.  Optimism over tackling social exclusion (New Deal for Communities, Neighbourhood Renewal) gave way to the fear of terrorism (Prevent), and the funding relationship has changed from grants to contracts and commissioning.  Whose agenda is it?

WCEN logoMalik Gul spoke from 10 years’ experience of deepening involvement with the NHS, police and the local council in Wandsworth.  Understanding how these systems work continues to be a significant task.  How can we tackle the failure to serve marginalised communities?  What makes it worthwhile for churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, gurdwaras to engage with public agencies?  What needs to happen in order to bring these extensive social networks closer to the statutory services and vice versa?  The co-production of public services (eg mental health) by local religious groups, locating them in places where people already are, has proved to be a successful prototype in Wandsworth.  But where is the space for the conversations which lead to change and improvement?

merton_partnershipEvereth Willis and Eshaan Akbar described how the Local Strategic Partnership in Merton (many LSPs have disappeared in London) brings religious groups into strategic decision-making.  Merton’s commitment to community groups is high and the Community Plan will be co-written by the Inter Faith Forum’s Chair.  Food banks, services for the homeless and end of life care were mentioned, recognising the huge social capital contained within religious communities.

IFFLogoMarch07Roz Miller of Islington Faiths Forum told us about IFF’s expanding partnership work with the local council and NHS on poverty and mental health (Best Practice and Networking Conference 20th March).  Working with public agencies at a strategic level was the key, she said, and maintaining good relationships not only with local officers but with local councillors.  But she is sometimes disappointed by their small and tentative vision for, for example, care in the community.  A fully complementary role for faith communities could be immensely productive and reach those who need services the most, but often they are patronised and offered a small role.

Dr John Maiden and Gavin Moorhead described their Building on History work – how learning from the past can lead to a better future – and invited expressions of interest in being part of the project.  They are looking for local religious and multifaith groups which would like to examine their histories and heritages – a great opportunity for those who get involved.  Find out more here and contact Gavin for further details.

oulogo-56LBFN’s advisory group is looking at a possible partnership with Haider Ali of the Open University to tell the story of the network and its members over the last 10 years.  We will also consider some form of registration and public accountability; as a purely informal group we are not able to join, for example, the Inter Faith Network for the UK or the European Network on Religion and Belief.

IFN UK has asked LBFN’s convener to contribute to its Strategic Review.  Many of you may well have contributed, but if you have any thoughts about IFN’s future in relation to London’s local religious and multifaith groups and their relationship to the public sector, please let me know so that I can include them in my response.

cmfThe Christian Muslim Forum is looking for a few individuals in Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Southwark, Lambeth, Brent and Wandsworth to have a light lunch together in each of the boroughs.  Over lunch (provided), they will use Conversations of the Soul as a way of understanding each other’s communities and to build stronger relationships across the Christian-Muslim boundary.  It is hoped that some of the participants will be from the local authority, police or NHS – people whose work involves engaging local faith communities and who can use a lunch-break to widen their circle of contacts in an enjoyable way.   Let me know if you are interested, or contact the CMF direct.

Leave a comment below or send me any further reflections.