LBFN’s celebrations at Europe House

Thanks to everyone who made our 10th anniversary celebration such a memorable occasion!

It was great to be with so many inspiring people from neighbourhoods across the capital and from a wide range of different communities.


The Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Woolwich, who was our first speaker, with Catriona Robertson (LBFN Convener), Aliya Azam (Al Khoei Foundation) and Steve Miller (Faith-based Regeneration Network).

View the full set of photos on Flikr and download the programme booklet, which includes links to local groups across the capital.


LBFN friends from nearly all the London boroughs and from over 10 major religious & belief traditions gathered together at Europe House in Westminster.  Officers from local authorities and the police service joined the celebration.  The Home Office, HM Prison Service and the Department for Communities and Local Government were also represented.

We heard inspiring stories from many of our members.  It was heartening to hear of the excellent work that takes place, mainly under the radar, in so many parts of London.

Local religious and community groups working in partnership – with each other, with public agencies, with government and with academic bodies – was a major theme.  As was the importance of building trust, sharing experience and expertise – and finding practical, smart and strategic solutions together.


Dr Haider Ali (left) of the Open University Business School reported on the initial findings of his research this year into the work of LBFN members.  He highlighted the complexity of our work, the inherent tensions within it, the benefits of co-producing public services and the importance of values being at the heart of all we do.  Download Dr Ali’s handout here.

The European Network on Religion & Belief, which LBFN has been closely involved in setting up over the past three years and which is now registered under Belgian law, was celebrated.  Rachel Stone, Dr Syed Kamall MEP’s Chief of Staff, brought messages of support and we received a warm message from Han Steijnebrugh in the Netherlands, Chair of Seric Europe.

Bishop Michael spoke about the benefits of making links across the continent and of recognising the historic complexity of European life.


The London Peace Network, which LBFN launched to promote the 2012 Olympic Truce, co-ordinates local initiatives, including activities to mark the UN International Day of Peace in September each year. Lord Michael Bates (left) is our patron and Aliya Azam (right) has organised many peace-building events at the Al Khoei Foundation and as part of Brent Interfaith.

Dr Chris Hewer, who is well known to many local churches and Islamic centres in London for his Understanding Islam courses, sent a message radiating “peace and light over you via the ether. I am delighted that you have reached your tenth anniversary!”


Dr Shuja Shafi (Harrow Mosque & Muslim Council of Britain), Lord Michael Bates, Catriona Robertson, Aliya Azam and Rosalind Miller (Islington Faiths Forum).


Many of us stayed on for something to eat and a chance to catch up with old friends and to meet new ones: Saad Mahmood and Steve Miller (centre).


The British Transport Police, who have hosted LBFN meetings at their HQ in Camden, were amongst our guests.  The picture includes members of Enfield Faith Forum,  Susanne Mitchell (Presence & Engagement Network – left), Jan McHarry (Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum and Faith-based Regeneration Network – lower left) and Sgt Keith Johnson (right).

Malik Gul (Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network) talked about his co-production work with Wandsworth Council and the local NHS, training local religious leaders to support early intervention and redesigned pathways.  Public agencies, he said, will struggle more with preventative actions without the support and engagement of local religious and community organisations.


Roz Miller of Islington Faiths Forum (right) spoke of her pioneering work on mental health and poverty and of the collaborative relationships she has built with the local council and NHS.

Zahra Imame (third left) works with local groups across London and facilitates 'Conversations of the Soul' with the Christian Muslim Forum and Near Neighbours. Zahra Imame (third left) works with local groups across London and facilitates 'Conversations of the Soul' with the Christian Muslim Forum and Near Neighbours.

Zahra Imame (third left, seated) works with local groups across London and facilitates ‘Conversations of the Soul’ with the Christian Muslim Forum and the Near Neighbours Programme.


We had a wonderful bunch of people sharing their stories and ideas, with no shortage of humour.  Leonie Lewis (right) spoke on behalf of the Jewish Volunteering Network and Faiths Forum for London (LBFN has been co-opted to the FFL Council in 2012 and 2013).

Charanjit AjitSingh (right) of Hounslow Friends of Faith talked about her work on holistic care with the clinical staff at the Middlesex Hospital and of the series of Good Neighbour Days which the Friends organised with Hounslow Council during Inter Faith Week.


Saadat Yusuf (left) of Muslim Sisters Jamaat talked about British links with Nigeria and about the vitally important work of supporting young mothers.


Rabbi James Baaden of Sha’arei Tsedek (North London Reform Synagogue, which marked the UN International Day of Peace 2013 with the London Peace Network) and Inno Amadi (Haringey Council).


Front row: Revd Francis Parker-Allotey (Enfield Faith Forum), John Woodhouse (Westminster Cathedral Inter Faith Group), Balbir Singh Bakhshi (Greenwich Faith Community Leaders), Rashid Laher (South London Inter Faith Group) and Bessie White (Hounslow Friends of Faith). Back row includes Jan McHarry (Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum & Faith-based Regeneration Network), Charlie Ryder (HMP Wandsworth), Andrew Cameron (Southwark Cathedral), Matthew Trigg (Westminster Council) and Brian Lovell (St Stephen’s Walbrook).  Rizwan Alibhai (South London Inter Faith Group) is standing.

Video clips will be available soon.

Many people have been in touch since 25th November: contacts, emails and new ideas for partnership and joint working have been buzzing across London.  There is a lot of energy amongst those of us who were at Europe House – and also amongst the many who couldn’t make it but were with us in spirit.

Dr Harriet Crabtree, Director of the Inter Faith Network of the UK, kindly sent this message, “Warmest congratulations to LBFN on its significant work and achievements in its first ten years and all good wishes for its future work.”

Theology for Practitioners was popular this year and links to our previous work on multifaith spaces.  The London Peace Network is busy making plans for 2014 and our continued links with European groups & the EU bring further opportunities for working in partnership beyond the UK.

Engaging strategically with our local councils, the police & prison services; bringing local communities and expertise together with NHS professionals to overcome health inequalities; concerns about poverty, discrimination and injustice; active peace-building and promoting the strength and prosperity of our local neighbourhoods; social action and contributing to the evolving public conversation on religion, belief and our public services – these are all close to our hearts.

At our next meeting (probably late January or February) we’ll have an opportunity to see where this takes us.  By then, our registration process should be nearing completion.  As ever, if you would like to be put in touch with someone with similar interests, or if you have something you’re keen for us to tackle or to consider at a future meeting, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Matched funding for local activities

togetherinservicelogoThe successor to 2012’s A Year of Service is Together in Service, a programme supported by the government and offering small grants, if matched by a similar amount from another source, to local faith-based groups.  The government website includes the programme under the policy Bringing people together in strong, united communities, which says

Promoting responsibility

Together in Service is a 3-year programme to celebrate and link up faith-based social action. A Together in Service fund of up to £300,000 over 3 years is available in the form of small grants for multi-faith projects. Up to £1,000 will be on offer to help get local projects off the ground in areas where there may be a lack of confidence or knowledge in undertaking volunteering work in a multi-faith way.

The programme is being run by FaithAction, which has set up a special website.  You need to join the Together in Service Fellowship (which offers news, resources & a calendar of events) in order to download the application form and apply for funding.  The Grant Application Pack gives a good idea of what the government hopes to support:

FaithAction will be administering an annual pot of £160,000. This is available as 1:1 match-funding for small grants of £2,000 and £5,000 – the Together in Service Fund – to facilitate new multi-faith social action projects at a local level, where there is often a lack of confidence in undertaking volunteering work in a multi-faith way.

FaithAction wishes to support a wide range of activities aimed at improving the quality of life for local people.

Through our grant making, we aim to:

  • Target community need that is informed by local research and local consultation
  • Focus support to achieve maximum effectiveness
  • Enhance community and voluntary activity
  • Encourage best practice among community and voluntary groups
  • Give help where it is needed most

The focus on local work and the wide range of social action activities which will be considered means that many multifaith groups in London are likely to be eligible.

The fund will be launched this Thursday 21 November 10am – 12 noon at Westminster Cathedral Hall with Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP and FaithAction’s Director, Daniel Singleton.  Details of how to register for this are here.

Shall we talk about this, and maybe a wider conversation about the resourcing of local and voluntary activities, at our next meeting in the new year?  In the meantime, let’s hope there are plenty of successful applications in London.

Invitation | 10 years of LBFN

LBFN Europe HouseJoin LBFN members and friends from across the capital on Monday 25 November at 4.30-6pm for our 10th anniversary celebrations at Europe House, Westminster.

We’re delighted that the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Woolwich, and Lord Michael Bates will be amongst our special guests.

What:     LBFN’s 10th anniversary

When:    Monday 25 November 4.30pm – 6pm, followed by a networking reception

Where:   Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London SW1P 3EU (tube: Westminster)

We have a brilliant line-up with a huge range of expertise and experience.  We’ll be hearing about the Open University research on LBFN from Dr Haider Ali; thoughts from the sharp end by Roz Miller (IFF), Malik Gul (WCEN) and Steve Miller (FbRN); our fast-paced FCO-sponsored film Pakistan: the Pride & the Promise; and reflections from Aliya Azam (Al-Khoei Foundation) and Navleen Kaur (AFAN) on the London Peace Network and the European Network on Religion & Belief.

Leonie Lewis (FFL/JVN) and Warwick Hawkins (DCLG) will bring us encouragement and Rachel Stone will be representing Dr Syed Kamall MEP who is unable to be with us because of meetings in Brussels.

Download the invitation here and pass it on to friends and colleagues. It’s a great opportunity to meet up with people from communities across London who are deeply committed to transforming their neighbourhoods.

Make sure you are able to pass security at Europe House – RSVP to the convener by 24 November at the latest.

Our Twitter hashtag will be #lbfn10.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Integration & locally-led action

iCoCo asks us to save the date 23rd April for an event in central London –

At Ease With Each Other

“A major opportunity to discuss cohesion and integration in the UK; with Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP, Ben Page, David Goodhart, Ted Cantle and others.”

This follows the publication by the Department for Communities and Local Government of Creating the Conditions for Integration last month.  The document sets out the government’s approach to integration.  Discrimination and hate crime against Muslims and Jews are mentioned, as well as the positive role that the Faith-based Regeneration Network, the Near Neighbours Programme and the Inter Faith Network for the UK are playing.  The promotion of economic regeneration by local authorities is encouraged, with a caution against the implicit endorsement of divisive groups by engagement or the use of public buildings.

The document places an emphasis on the role of local community groups and ‘locally-led action’.  It says,

‘Our new approach is focused on how we create the conditions for integration to happen. Instead of large-scale, centrally led and funded programmes, we want to inspire and enable civil society and local areas to take action on integration issues that are important to them.’

Shall we discuss this at our next meeting?  Who might be interested to hear the views of local multifaith groups?  Who would you like to hear speak?

A Year of Service

The Jewish community gets together on social action projects on Mitzvah Day in November each year. During A Year of Service, with the support of the Department of Communities and Local Government, nine faith communities will be inviting people of different religious and philosophical traditions to join them on social action projects.


More dates for your 2012 diaries :)

A Year of Service is one way of celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and could easily add an extra dimension to the wide range of community activities which religious and multifaith groups are engaged in, year in, year out.

The Year will be led by nine faith communities in the UK, each inviting others to join them (on specific dates) in social action projects to improve their local neighbourhoods.

Here is the list:

28 February                Bahá’í              Launch in Hyde Park
21 March                      Zoroastrian    No Ruz, visiting the elderly
22 Feb to 7 April         Christian         Lent, cleaning and restoring
16 April                        Jain                  Mahavia Jayanti, visiting the sick
27 May                         Christian         Pentecost, meeting the stranger
16 June                         Sikh                 Martyrdom of Guru Arjan, bringing sweetness
3 July                            Buddhist         Asala Dharma, caring for the environment
4/5 August                   Muslim           Ramadan, meeting new neighbours
5 October                     Christian         Harvest Festival, feeding the hungry
7 October                     Hindu               Sewa day, helping the homeless
18 November              Jewish              Mitzvah Day, growing things
2-24 December          Christian          Advent, fighting poverty

Thanks to everyone who has let me know about this initiative – Duncan, Rashid, Alan, Justine, Susanne, Siriol and others.  Shall we invite someone from A Year of Service to one of our meetings?

More information is available from the faith contacts and there is a flyer especially for south Londoners here.

The Department of Communities and Local Government will be supporting the Year through the website.  The Coexist Foundation will be leading a national celebration to coincide with Inter Faith Week in November – there is a picture of fireworks, so I am hopeful.