What’s On: prayers for peace| funday | lunch | lectures | religious history

Seven invitations – two of them are for tomorrow.

Ismail SerageldinWednesday 29th May at 5.30pm: Lecture by Dr Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Library of Alexandria, Memory, Culture and Hope: Reinventing Relations between the West and the Muslims, followed by a reception. The Drama Studio, Institute of Education (Main Building), 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL. Download invitation here.  Please register at administration@egyptculture.org.uk.

Wednesday 29th May at 6.30pm: Kensington and Chelsea Forum of Faiths: Inter Faith Prayers following the murder in Woolwich at Al Manaar, Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, 244 Acklam Road W10 5YG.  Contact Revd James Mather.

Thursday 30th May at 12.30pm: South London Inter Faith Group Lunch at Streatham Friends Meeting House, Redlands Way, Roupell Park Estate, Brixton Hill, SW2 3LU. As usual, a vegetarian lunch will be served at 12.30pm. Contact SLIFG at membership@southlondoninterfaith.org.uk.

Muslims-Multiculturalism-SOAS-2013Saturday 1st June – Sunday 2nd June: SOAS, University of London, Conference, Muslims, Multiculturalism and Trust: New Directions.  To consider the potential offered by lived experience and creative visions of intercultural exchange to offer new ways of envisaging multicultural experience.  Speakers include Rehana Ahmed, Valerie Amiraux, Claire Chambers, Sohail Daulatzai, Rumy Hasan, Salah Hassan, Tony Laden, Alana Lentin, Nasar Meer, Tariq Modood, Anshuman Mondal, Peter Morey, Stephen Morton, Jorgen Nielsen, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, Amina Yaqin.

Friday 7th June at 6.30pm:  The 2013 WPCT Lecture will be given by the German Ambassador, H.E. Georg Boomgarden, Valuing Europe beyond economics: what binds us together? at Europe House, 32 Smith Square, SW1P 3EU.  Contact Win Burton.

BATCASaturday 8th June 12-5pmBATCA Funday in Broadwater Road, Tooting, London SW17.  Anglican church and Muslim school combine to provide fantastic afternoon of fun “Celebrating Life Together”. Attractions appeal to all including inflatables, fairground rides, clowns, sideshows, animals to pet from Kingston City Farm, arts and crafts workshops, sports, stalls run by craftspeople and stalls run by local voluntary and community organisations. Multicultural food will be on sale throughout the day. The road space will be closed to traffic and filled with attractions and stalls.  Contact Kate Allan.

Friday 14th June 12-4pm: Exploring Religious History in Wandsworth, with the Open University.  Balham Baptist Church, 21 Ramsden Road, London SW12 8QX.  Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network and the OU’s Building on History team invite you to explore the religious history of the area and to discuss a prospective local religious history project. Contact Nadeene Morris.

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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.

Building on History | local religious groups in London working with the Open University

The Building on History project looks at how learning from the past can help us work towards a better future.

We’ll be hearing from the OU’s Gavin Moorhead and John Maiden at our meeting tomorrow.  This video clip mentions Croydon Mosque and includes Malik Gul of Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network.