Towards a More Equitable Religion and Belief Landscape


Full house at ENORB UK’s third meeting, which included presentations from the Religion & Society Programme, Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Consortium.  The afternoon ended with William Barylo’s new film “Polish Muslims”.

The University of Derby’s Professor Paul Weller was one of the speakers at the recent ENORB UK meeting as guests of the Human Rights Consortium, University of London.  You can download the slides from Paul’s presentation here – he has asked that we respect the request on the first slide © Not for direct quotation or reproduction without permission of the presenter.  Summaries of the research for distribution can be downloaded here and here.  Download a list of participants here.

Dr David Perfect of the Equalities & Human Rights Commission reported on recent research by the EHRC with Goldsmiths, University of London and the Coexist Foundation.  The meeting was well attended and it was good to see LBFN members, including John Lester (Havering), Jackie Goymour (Women’s Interfaith Network), Aliya Azam (Brent) and Steve Miller (FbRN).

The meeting ended with a new film, Polish Muslims, with an introduction by the director, William Barylo.

The next ENORB seminar in Brussels, Belgium, will be on 3-4 December.

[Apologies for very late posting – this somehow slipped the ‘publish’ button. ENORB UK is part of our Europe social lab and the next meeting will take place this autumn with the British Humanist Association.]

Jewish Museum Brussels

Several LBFN friends have visited Brussels to contribute to meetings of the European Network on Religion & Belief.  The shootings over the weekend at the Jewish Museum there, on the eve of national and EU elections, have made distressing news.

The League of Muslims in Belgium has issued a statement condemning the killing of innocent people.  ENORB has an English translation of the LMB statement on its website.  CEJI – a Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe – has also responded with an article on Anti-Semitism and the Future of Europe outlining recommended actions.  Karim Chemlal (LMB) and Robin Sclafani (CEJI) are both members of ENORB and will be participating in the AGM on 17-18 June in Brussels, which will include a reflection on the results of the EU elections and their impact on religion and belief communities across the continent.

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.

European Network on Religion and Belief – Brussels May 2012

Walking Madou – the entrance to a no-car zone in Brussels where children play on the street.  Several enorb participants stayed overnight at the nearby Institute of Cultural Affairs.

People from over 50 organisations gathered from across Europe yesterday and today in Brussels for mutual understanding and shared action.  Some were from religious traditions, some were from belief*/non-confessional/convictional/humanist/philosophical traditions.

A round table meeting was held at the EU Parliament with Vice-President Laszlo Surjan.  We discussed the contribution of religious and non-religious communities to overcoming discrimination, violence and extremism in Europe.

Several LBFN members had made suggestions for our contribution on moving from anger and violence to dialogue and positive action: I included the aftermath of 7/7 and the shooting of Jean-Charles de Menezes, Hate Crime Forums, responses to the protests against Harrow Mosque’s new minaret and the role of women.  Thank you to everyone who was in touch about this.

Here are some photos of the event.

Vice-President Laszlo Surjan (third from left) at enorb’s round table at the EU Parliament, with (l-r) Melissa Sonnino (CEJI), Jackie Goymour (Women’s Interfaith Network & LBFN) and Alan Murray (President of enorb).

Harjinder Singh (Sangat Sahib Gurudwara) and Martin Gurvich (Hindu Forum Europe – and enorb’s treasurer).

Catriona Robertson (Convener, LBFN, centre) speaking on how local communities move from violence to positive action, with Yolande Iliano (Chair, Religions for Peace – Europe, left) and Karen Walkden (LBFN, right). Thanks to Melissa Sonnino for the photo.

Georges Lienard (G3i) addressing the round table on Secular European Traditions: what contribution to European security?

Alan Murray (AFAN) and Dennis de Jong MEP.  Dennis spoke at today’s meeting.  He has brought together an all-party group of MEPs to support freedom of religion and belief – whatever your outlook on life, he said, religious or otherwise, you need the opportunity to reflect on it. The group is also in touch with the External Action Service, noting that it was slow to respond to the Arab Spring last year.

Amarjit Kaur (United Sikhs Belgium) who described the difficulties facing Sikh schoolchildren in Belgium in relation to religious dress.

Augustine Booth-Clibborn (Inter Faith Network UK) and Abdullah Faliq (The Cordoba Foundation)

Helene Egnell (Centre for Inter Faith Dialogue in the Diocese of Stockholm) and Hannah Wallace (consultant with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation).

Karim Chemlal (Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe), Alan Murray (All Faiths and None) and Gérard Delfau (Egalité-Laïcité- Europe).

Sayed Ali Abbas (Majlis Ulema Europe), Hannah Wallace, Catriona Robertson and Tinci Singh (United Sikhs).

Exchanges between enorb member groups across Europe was a popular idea.  There’s no substitute for visiting a local network in another country to learn about the different contexts and challenges – and in return, welcoming them to, for example, London.

It was inspiring to meet so many practitioners from across Europe who are building communities of trust in their own countries and who are committed to working with each other on a European level.

The enorb website is now live and will carry photos and reports of the Brussels meeting soon.

*The words we use to describe each other haven’t found consensus yet – a Buddhist participant reminded us that many Buddhists are both religious and non-confessional.

ENORB Round Table & Reception in Brussels

Come & meet people from across Europe who are doing the kinds of thing LBFN members do – building trust across different religions and beliefs, combating discrimination and prejudice, working locally and with public sector partners for the common good.

LBFN has been actively making links across Europe for a few years and has been part of the European Network on Religion and Belief development group from the start.  We’ve held a couple of gatherings in London – the last at Europe House in Westminster.

The topic for ENORB’s first meeting at the EU Parliament on 29th May is Security in Europe: the contribution of Europe’s diversity of religions, humanist and philosophical traditions to overcoming discrimination, violence and extremism.  The EU Parliament Vice President László Surján will be with us.

You’ll find more info and details of how to apply here ENORB Roundtable & Reception Brussels and the invitation is here ENORB Invitation to Brussels.

The round table has limited places, but the evening reception and workshops the following day will be able to accommodate many more.  Eurostar tickets are cheaper if you book well in advance . .

There’s a short piece ‘Making faith matter in the EU’ in the Economic and Social Research Council’s Britain in 2012 (I can’t find it online, but it’s at newsagents).

European Network on Religion and Belief 29th-30th May

LBFN is one of the groups bringing together a network of Europeans who are working across religious and belief boundaries.  The network has now been registered under the unsurprising name of European Network on Religion and Belief.

Vice-President of the European Parliament, Dr László Surján, has kindly invited us to the EU Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday 29th May at 3pm.

There will be a reception nearby that evening and an intercultural breakfast, workshops and lunch the next day so that groups from across Europe can get together and work out priorities for the first year or two.  A formal launch is planned for the autumn.

The title for discussion at the meeting on 29th May is a bit long-winded but highly topical – SECURITY: the contribution of Europe’s diversity of religions, humanist and philosophical traditions to overcoming discrimination, violence and extremism.

Let LBFN know if you’d like to apply for an invitation.  It promises to be a fascinating afternoon, with the opportunity of meeting multifaith/interconvictional groups and practitioners from across Europe.  Places are limited for the Parliamentary meeting, but there is more space at the subsequent events.

LBFN will be making one of several very short presentations at the EU Parliament – shall we add this topic to the agenda for our next LBFN meeting so that everyone’s views are shared?  Let me know your thoughts.

Lunch in Multifaith Europe

Interested in the emerging European Network on Religion & Belief?  You’re in excellent company.

Frugal lunch but sparkling company at Europe House

People from over 30 organisations met at LBFN’s Interfaith Week event at Europe House yesterday.  Those who stayed on to network were pleased to meet Michael Shackleton, Head of the European Parliament Information Office, who was showing a visitor a striking portrait of Churchill.

Here are some photos – the programme can be downloaded here, you can see the clip from Plain Tales of the Hijab here and the Limmud film is here.

Navleen Kaur & Rachel Heilbron

Phil Rosenberg & Arzoo Ahmed







Catriona Robertson, Mansoor Habib, Jon Dal Din (hidden), Hannah Wallace & Steve Miller

Revd David Rayner, Revd Andrew Moughtin-Mumby & Tarsem Bhogal

Rabbi Larry Becker, Revd Richard Jones & Canon Giles Goddard









Suggestions for the new network and launch next year include:

  • local-to-local links
  • tackle racial and religious hatred
  • marketplace so that Europe-based groups can find each other
  • improve the competence of government institutions in dealing with religion & belief (explanation of terms)
  • model effective ways of bringing people of different traditions together
  • involve young people & youth groups
  • promote effective education on religion & belief
  • ensure a proper space for women
  • facilitate conversations between social justice work and academic & theological research
  • concern about the far right
  • acknowledge complexity and the different historical contexts across Europe
  • celebrate the wide variety of religion & belief traditions in Europe today
  • a convivial evening event at the launch, bringing together people of all faiths and none

If you have any suggestions or ideas, please let us know asap.  The next planning meeting in Brussels is on 8th December – LBFN and All Faiths And None will be present.

European network on religion & belief – 28th November

Last year’s Brêakfåst in Mültifaitħ Eŭrőpe during Inter Faith Week was a great success, despite the early hour.   Catch up with the latest news on the Europe page.

This year, we are meeting at Europe House, the European Parliament’s United Kingdom Office in Westminster, on Monday 28th November.

We’ll meet at 12.45pm for 1-2pm, with extra time for networking after that.  I guess we should call italthough you’d be wise to bring your own tiffin/sandwiches/piece if your lunchtime requirements go beyond light refreshments.

Let me know if you’d like to know more or download an invitation here.  You will need to add your name to the guest list at  The planning group is working towards a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels next year.

The EU’s dialogue with religious & philosophical organisations

The European religious leaders, including Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain (top, second from right).

During the morning of Monday 30th May, the EU presidents (there are three!) hosted their annual discussion and lunch with religious leaders.

The meeting took place in Brussels – you can read more about it here.

In the afternoon, there was another meeting (top marks to the religious leaders who managed both) to explore how Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty should be implemented by the EU Parliament.

This was described as “a dialogue about the dialogue”.  Dialogue is not my favourite word – but dialogue² turned out to be familiar and fascinating in turn.

Article 17 sets out the EU’s responsibilities thus:

1. The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States.

2. The Union equally respects the status under national law of philosophical and non-confessional organisations.

3. Recognising their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations.

This was the first meeting open to religious (and multifaith) groups to have a look at what this might mean in practice and, as we discussed at our last meeting, LBFN was pleased to be there.

Familiar: the usual tussle over representation – it’s much easier to communicate with a few people who are near the top of large hierarchical organisations (eg the Church of England) than with hundreds of smaller religious groups which have flatter organisational structures and a complex pattern of relating to each other (eg newer Christian denominations, some of the minority faith traditions in Europe).  The default position of talking only to leaders of major religious & philosophical organisations means that quite a few people are left out – for example, women (there were no women at all on the panel at the afternoon meeting).  What kind of structure would allow good all-round communications without getting bogged down in an absurdly large bureaucracy?

Also familiar were the questions around the inclusion of religious and philosophical groups in the same discussions – this is an area where LBFN members have skills.

Both these concerns touch on recognition as well as representation – again, LBFN members have experience of this at local level, particularly when it comes to discussions about public policy with local government and public agencies.

Fascinating: I was interested to know *why* the EU wanted to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with religious communities and philosophical and non-confessional organisations.  Several EU policy areas were mentioned, along with a desire to promote the peaceful co-existence of these communities in Europe, to protect religious freedom (as part of a more general concern for the protection of human rights and dignity) and a recognition that a good understanding of religion and belief needed to underpin the EU’s foreign policy and development aid.

But I was impressed that the first step that the EU Parliament’s President Jerzy Buzek and Vice-President László Tőkés have taken in sorting out *how* it is to be done has been to bring together many of the people who are likely to be involved – and ask them.  Bravo!

Members of the emerging European Network - Nicole, Catriona, Yolande, Katerina & Karim - at the European Parliament on 30th May (thanks to Katerina's Greek Orthodox friends - two priests - who took the photo).

The emerging European Religion & Belief Network, which LBFN is involved in shaping, could play a useful part by contributing the experience and expertise of practitioners within grass-roots multifaith and intercultural groups across the continent.  In order to do this effectively, members of the new network will need to know about each other and be in touch – exchange visits, online communications, meeting up from time to time.

LBFN, along with other members of the new network (a great bunch which includes a wide range of religious and philosophical traditions, including the UK’s All Faiths & None), has now been represented at four meetings with officials within the European institutions.

A gathering of the new network is likely to be held in Brussels in early December [now more likely to be May 2012] – let me know if you’re interested or have suggestions for this (the planning meeting will be towards the end of this month).  A meeting in London, bringing together those who are interested in the new network, is planned for June [now fixed for 28th November].

Europe: building trust between communities

At LBFN we have welcomed the possibility of stronger links with similar grass-roots groups across Europe.  Our Breakfast in Multifaith Europe during Inter Faith Week last year brought together several other groups with similar interests.

Last week an exploratory meeting involving pan-European groups took place in Brussels and was followed by a meeting at the European Commission, arranged by Alan Murray, Director of All Faiths and None.  LBFN’s Convener was happy to take part in both.  There was a positive response and there is a possibility of a conference later in the year, again in Brussels, bringing together intercultural groups (within the EU ‘religion & belief’ includes Humanist traditions) from across Europe.