SHORTLISTED FOR AWARD FOR BRIDGING CULTURES
In December Kingston Inter Faith Forum was shortlisted for an Award for Bridging Cultures by the Institute of Community Cohesion. Congratulations to all the members of the Forum who have contributed to the work of the Forum in its first 7 years.
Please see Our Files - Inter Faith Network UK for the latest bulletin of inter faith news nationally
Background to the Week
In July 2008 the Department for Communities and Local Government published Face to Face and Side by Side — a Framework for Partnership in our Multi Faith Society. This report presented the Government’s strategy for encouraging the further development of inter faith activity in England. It set out how faith communities, Government and wider society can work together, at all levels, to bring people with different religions and beliefs together.
The framework drew on research and on the responses to a three-month public consultation, and contained examples of effective practice, practical suggestions for communities and local authorities and links to further sources of support and guidance.
Face to Face and Side by Side contained a number of undertakings by Government. One of these was to work in partnership with the Inter Faith Networkfor the UK to organise an Inter Faith Week in 2009. The Inter Faith Network links national faith community representative bodies; national, regional and local inter faith bodies and educational and academic bodies with an interest in inter faith issues. SEEFF is part of this network on behalf of SE England.
The Inter Faith Network’s involvement springs from the aims, shared by its over 160 member bodies, of promoting greater understanding between people of different faiths in the UK. In its response to the consultation for Face to Face and Side by Sideit proposed an Inter Faith Week, drawing from experience of a successful Week of this kind held in Scotland.
The Week is being held on a ‘one off’ basis, although the option for faith and inter faith bodies to hold a similar Week in future years will be considered after this year’s Week has taken place.
In November 2009 Kingston Inter Faith Forum celebrated the week with four events:
- Three Faiths Speaker Exchange: the exchanges took place between Kingston Liberal Synagogue (Sheikh Abdesamad -13/11), Kingston Mosque (Revd Bruce Stuart -Friday 20/11) and All Saints Church (Rabbi Danny Rich - Sunday 22/11).
- ‘Celebrating Creativity and Diversity in Kingston' concert (Sunday 15/11) - Surbiton Assembly Rooms (Report from organiser Andrea Campanale):
- Contemporary Paganism (Monday 16/11) - University Faith & Spirituality Centre:
- Inter Faith Café (Wednesday 18/11) - Kingston University C-Scaipe Centre:
A video of part of the concert has been displayed on You Tube:
Faiths Act Fellows Nicola (from N Ireland) and Javeed (from the East End) describe the Faiths Act project
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY KINGSTON 2009
An address by Philip Spencer
(an address by Revd Dr. Malachie Munyaneza follows this below)
We must start by trying to remember what exactly it is that happened not so long ago - the Holocaust, a phenomenon that is still hard to comprehend even today, over 60 years after the event.
This was, we must never forget, a conscious, planned and organised project by a modern state to kill, to murder millions of people. Although it took place under the cover of a war, a world war between states, it was itself a war, a war against Jews. And the Jews were killed in this war because they were Jews.
This is not to say that the Jews were the only victims of the Nazis. The Nazis killed huge numbers of people – the Roma and the Sinti, Russians (in especially huge numbers), Poles, “Slavs” (as they defined them), homosexuals, political opponents - to name only some. We should remember them all today. There is no hierarchy of suffering involved here and there can be no such hierarchy – each death was what it was, the death of a human being, the extinction of an equally precious life
This was a murderous regime, a genocidal regime, the most radical such regime we have witnessed in modern times (so far, although others have come and are coming ever closer). It was radical in at least four interconnected ways. It was radical, firstly, in that the aim was to kill all the Jews everywhere - not just German Jews but Jews from across Europe, from North Africa, anywhere they could lay their hands on them. Secondly, it was an end in itself – not a means to any other end, to gain territory, or resources or power. Thirdly, immense resources were devoted to this end, even at the expense of the war against the Allies, against the British, the Americans, the Soviets.
And, fourthly, it was an extraordinarily radical process – the Nazis turned what was most productive about modern society, techniques of mass production, factories, into a machinery of destruction. The extermination camps, camps that is which were set up not (just) to imprison and/or to exploit people but to kill them, were effectively factories of death – they were not designed primarily to produce goods or commodities for profit or exchange but only or rather corpses, ashes, death itself.
All of this was accompanied from the beginning by a hate-filled rhetoric, an ideology of hate, openly advertised, openly expressed. It was an ideology which identified those the Nazis hated quite clearly and precisely. In the Nazi imagination, the Jews were the source of all that was wrong with the world. Hitler constructed in his mind a vast conspiracy of Jews - Jews who (he claimed) held immense, power, pulled all the strings: they were (absurdly) held to be behind not just capitalism but communism too. Supposedly immensely powerful, they were however not fully or really human at all but radically inferior, sub-human - rats, vermin, animals, beasts. If Germany, if the world, was to be “saved”, then the Jews had to be got rid of, expelled, ultimately exterminated.
This was an ideology which was expressed, disseminated everywhere - in writings, in speeches, on film, on the radio, in the press and (not least) in educational materials that were used in every classroom, in every primary school, in every secondary school, even in Universities. No one listening to any of this, reading any of this, watching any of this, could have been in any doubt as to what the Nazis believed.
But many people, the majority of people, chose to ignore it. They treated it as “just” rhetoric. When Hitler was not yet in power, they thought he was “just” a demagogue. When he came to power, they thought he would be “tamed” by power, by those who worked with him and for him.
But it was exactly the opposite. Those who worked for him, did not tame him at all - the reverse. They implemented his beliefs with efficiency, with effectiveness, with zeal and with commitment, at every level. They put his ideas into practice. They wrote legislation, stripping Jews of citizenship (the Nuremburg laws). They removed Jews from schools (both pupils and teachers), they took away their jobs, they forced them from their homes, they condemned them to what Daniel Goldhagen has called “social death”, before they began to kill them in earnest.
For this, they needed the willing participation of the police, of the army, alongside the SS, to round Jews up for shooting - well over a million were killed that way, which is often forgotten. This was all before the extermination camps began their deadly work. Millions were herded by the police, by the army, as well as the SS, into ghettoes, then (if they had not starved to death there) transported to the camps for gassing. And then, at the end, when few enough were left, those who had survived somehow so far were marched back to Germany on the infamous “death marches”. All of this took immense organisation (and ingenuity). It was not spontaneous or random but planned and co-ordinated.
We can and must learn many lessons from this catastrophic experience. But one is that it is a fatal mistake to ignore what people say.
And this holds true for all genocides before and after the Holocaust. For sadly, tragically, the Holocaust was not the last – if anything there have been more genocides since the Holocaust than there were before. There have been genocides in places as afar afield as Bangladesh, Guatemala, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kurdistan, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, and now Darfur.
In each case, the killers have advertised what they were going to, identified and targeted the group that they wanted to get rid of, dehumanised and stigmatised them, before and as they set about murdering them. These advertisements are so many warning signs. Once people start saying things like this, it is not long before they can act on them. Once they start acting on them, in little ways, it is not long before they may be able to do so in bigger ways, especially if they get their hands on the levers of power, the apparatus of the modern state.
We have seen too much of this to plead surprise when it happens, to claim we did not know what was going to happen. .We can know and we do know and our responsibility is clear. It is to challenge these ideas, the ideology of hate, from the beginning, at its source, whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.
For the Holocaust would not have been possible if people ( and not just governments and not just in Germany) had seen it as their responsibility to stand up to this hatred, to express solidarity with the Jews, to offer them help and support when the first attacks came, in word and in deed.
Remembering the Holocaust means that we have to look both backwards and forwards, to understand what happened, to see how it happened and above all to try to make sure that it does not happen again.
Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University
IN RWANDA, HATRED CULMINATED INTO THE GENOCIDE ON TUTSIS
Revd Dr. Malachie Munyaneza
Minister United Reformed Church (Brixton Hill & Stockwell Green).
Good after-noon, Ladies and Gentleman.
Thank you very much for inviting me through Revd Bruce Stuart to come and speak to you about my own country and give you a short testimony on the failing to stand up to hatred in Rwanda that led to 1994 Genocide on Tutsis.
Hatred is a learned behaviour that ubiquitously leads to violence. Violence itself is a phenomenon. It is universal, multidimensional and multifarious. It is a repulsive mystery, especially when it is institutionalised to become part of a state programme with the aim to exterminate a supposed or real enemy.
Between April and July 1994, the media of the world brought the images of the most violent episode of Rwandan history into the living rooms of this planet's population. The magnitude of the Rwandan Genocide was unprecedented in the last century.
Up to a million of people mainly from Abatutsi ethnic group are estimated to have been killed within just a hundred days. That is ten thousand (10,000) people killed each single day! Men, women (including pregnant women), children (babies included), disabled, mentally handicapped, young and old were massacred with the most terrible means: traditional, modern and sophisticated weapons (machetes, spears, clubs fitted with nails, house burning , gang rape of girls and women who were murdered afterwards, guns and hand grenades etc.). We heard stories relating that even some graves of those who had died in the past before the genocide were desecrated, opened to kill the dead again! Such hatred! Such madness! All because of hatred transmitted from generation to generation.
Political analysts, sociologists and anthropologists have tried to find causes behind the genocide in the political and economic instability of the late 80s, in the malfunction of political institutions, the October War (1st October 1900-July 1994) its consequent atrocities.
I think that more honest searching in the philosophy of life itself as understood by Rwandan people, including the religious phenomenon in traditional Rwanda and in Christian eras must be included. Hatred and language of violence were part of religious and social-cultural expressions. Myths have been used to create a social stratification. Social casts of Hutus, Tutsis and Twas were then wrongly described as tribes. The concept of liberators or heroes, which was traditionally used, under the disguise of patriotism, to instil some psychological effects of violence was used again in April 1994 when the self-styled Government formed after the death of president Habyarimana was called ‘Leta y'Abatabazi' (the Government of Saviours). This was an attempt to use an old popular ideology to manipulate the minds of the people.
The Belgian administration in Rwanda, after taking over from German at the end of the First World War, distributed identity cards and everyone who possessed 5 cows was called a Tutsi and if you had fewer or none you were called a Hutu. These cards determined the fate of the holder.
Members of the same ancestral house could belong to two different ‘tribes' and get pitched against each other. During the Christian era, Rwanda was mapped up by missionaries, some using the Old Testament texts to differentiate the tribes, like the story of Abel and Cain to justify the professions of Tutsi as herdsmen and Hutus as land tillers or the central government region (Centre as Mesopotamia). The anthropologists, influenced by the theory of races had described the Tutsis as Nilo-Hamitic, some tracing their origin to Tibet!
Some went as far as saying ‘ Unser Blut fliesst in ihren Veinen' (Our blood flows in their veins'), thus making them White in black skins. This supremacy idea was of course used by some Tutsis to justify the monarchy, oligarchy, aristocracy and their superiority. But this also allowed extremists to call them foreigners in the same way as colonialists. That is why the Hate-Radio of Mille Collines incited people to send the Tutsis back to where they came from, meaning to Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Somalia (Gallaland).
The International Community, especially intellectuals who read those theories and never challenged them, has played a role in providing pillars that have sustained the edifice of hatred over the years. When these theories were used against Tutsis, the same International Community stayed aloof, indifferent to the Rwandan tragedy.
The calling of names was one other way of inciting hatred to kill the human spirit and ‘the dignity of difference' by humiliation. Tutsis were given such names as ‘snakes', ‘cockroaches' or ‘falashas.' As the Jews were blamed and accused of controlling ‘the press,' ‘finance' and ‘theater' in Germany and for the German defeat in First World War as well as for its economic chaos, Tutsi were made scapegoats when the economy of the country sank into marasmus.
Because some researchers had described the Tutsi as having ‘nothing of the negro apart his colour', ‘usually tall', ‘with vivacious intelligence' ‘natural-born leader, capable of extreme self-control and calculated goodwill' and were erroneously linked to Caucasian and Semitic or Jewish origins (Prunier: The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide, 1995, p.7), they made them into hated foreigners in their own land.
I will never forget the fear and anxiety I always had when I went to primary 5 and 6 and was stopped and my arms were checked to see whether I had tatoes of the young King Kigeli V. In secondary school I was always leaning down to hide under the desk because tall pupils could be targeted and be harassed or sent away as Tutsis. Sometimes I was rejected by both Hutus and Tutsi I approached. You can imagine how split a person I was because of hatred.
Returning home after 11 years of absence (between 1976 and 1987), I had little grasp of what was going on. Economy was becoming very bad. There were political assassinations and mysterious robberies that spread rumours around. The October 1990 war started when I was working with the African Evangelistic Enterprise which had an international character and which was involved in training Church Leaders.
We started talking openly about the situation. We tried to work towards the ending of the war and the reconciliation of the country. We mobilise people against hatred and divisions. So in the eyes of many, the AEE team were collaborators. I received threatening calls, letters slipped under my home doors, even before the genocide started, a group came to my place and shouted telling me that I should throw myself into the pit so that they will not have to make their swords dirty! Dirty blood! My wife who travelled quite a lot was told at airport, ‘when you come back your husband will not be alive'. These were words of my friends and my foes.
When the flight of the president was brought down on the 6th evening killing both Rwandan and Burundian presidents, I told myself, ‘It's finished. No one will survive to tell the story!' The next day shortly after 12 pm, I heard that the Executive Secretary of our Organisation had just been killed with his father and his children (miraculously, one daughter survived). In February he had called to the Government to accept the necessary changes and make sacrifices in power sharing for the sake of peace. The epitaph on his tomb reads, ‘.... He lived what he preached, he preached what he lived.' There was nowhere to flee. Every day I was expecting to next to die.
On the 11th of April 1994, the militia came to my house. They searched for arms, for documents and correspondence with the enemy. Everything that seemed strange to them from what we brought back home as personal belongings at the end of our stay in Kenya and Germany, was seen and suspected as having to do with secret communication with enemies and parts of weaponry! From radios to sawing machine and magnifiers, binoculars etc..
They said that my wife knew already what was going to happen, and went away (She had started her new job in London on January 13th). They told me that she had gone to the enemy's headquarters in Mulindi. I told them that as a Christian journalist and Director of the Communication department she had the duty to go everywhere she was sent and that she went to Mulindi with Bishops and Church leaders to meet the Rwandese Patriotic Front (The rebel group). So when people saw her on TV interviewing the Leader of the Patriotic Front, the actual President of Rwanda, they took her as a collaborator, a traitor and weapon smuggler!
After accusing me of having changed my ethnic group to deceive them because I had a Hutu identity card indicating that I was a still a student, that was another way ‘a cockroach' disguised himself, since at my age no one was expected to be a student! All this together with making public speeches in Stadiums and Public Halls, in Churches and on Radio, and allegedly facilitating secret meetings with their enemy, they said, ‘ the Vox Populi (the people's voice) condemns you to death.'
I told them that I was ready to die. Before they came I had been warned. So I prayed, ‘Lord, let me now be where I was before I was born, in your mind again, as before the creation of the creation of the world' (Ephesians. 1:4). There was no need to plead for mercy, surrounded by people you do not know. The militia lined us up on the street. They killed one couple.
Just before they started with me next, two soldiers from the presidential guard came and shouted, ‘Where were those cockroaches?' I shouted back ‘ in my compound', because I was hoping that, enraged, they would shoot me and I would die immediately without much suffering! Some victims were paying to be killed by bullets. The soldiers pushed me back from the queue and led me back into the house and said, ‘Our president has died, the president of Burundi, our Chief of Staff and many advisors of the president and you, cockroaches think that we will stay with arms folded?' I told them that they will never know who killed the two presidents and that it was wrong to look for them among ordinary innocent people. I really made them angry refuting all their allegations.
The machinegun was on my side pointed at my heart, and a pistol was on my head. I was praying, ‘God give me the grace to be shot dead.' When they stepped back and wanted to go out I pulled one on his shirt, he continued to go out probably thinking that the militia (interahamwe) would kill me. Instead they started by looting. There were also two cars in the compound and their leaders were fighting about who was going to take which. That distracted them in a way and one of them came and sorted out what he wanted from the house and said he would come for them later and that I was lucky not to die that mid-morning because the soldiers did not kill me. But he knew it was going to become a cat and mouse game! Twice friends tried to help me but each time I was taken from the cars, separated from my children and led to the ‘Councillor' an euphemism for ‘being killed.' Every time there were quarrels between leaders and I was allowed to go home. I cannot tell you how and why I was not killed!
On the 14th of April I was separated of my children and others who were at our house. They were themselves separated later but we were able to reunite miraculously on the 20th of May.
The next day all 34 people in the family where our eldest daughter was, some 20 km away were all killed by the militia.
On the 20th of May I was able to escape with a church official who came to Kigali who was asked to arrange my escape if I were still alive. Because the Patriotic Front fighter had made significant gains in Kigali and its surroundings, and the regular army and the militia had fled I went to my home village. But there too, every day our lives were in danger. The day we were warned was going to be the last one to live, the Patriotic Front fighters took the area and we run. Hiding here and there, in bushes, abandoned houses. Passing a roadblock meant the probability of death. We were made to sit for hours, humiliated, mocked and insulted. We went five days without food. We were almost crossing into Gisenyi to go to the Congo, as people were forced to flee by officials and the fighting, when the fighters of the Rwandese Patriotic Front blocked the passage. This time they had already taken the Capital. We were able to return to the village after three days walk.
We went back to Kigali and on the 25th of July Julienne, my wife came to Rwanda from London. We were guaranteed the permission to leave and so we came over to England. With post traumatic stress disorder, with survivor's guilt, by the fact that I had withdrawn myself from the reality of the earthly life in someway, it took me long to believe that it was I who lived and not someone else living in me!
The Rwandan genocide destroyed lives, the nation's social tissue, the national infrastructure and individual property affecting the whole economic structure. The Rwandan government has had huddles to overcome. The rebuilding of the country both materially and morally started from scratch.
Now the majority of the population are women, widows many of them suffering from HIV Aids, orphans, and many of them had to take responsibility at a young age to care for siblings, and therefore missing opportunity to study. Many young people are now in social institutions because what they called home has been destroyed. Rwanda had also to deal with the question of justice to correct the previous prevailing impunity. Many perpetrators of genocide are still in prisons.
The genocide happened in a world in which information reaches every corner, but because the country did not have raw material such as oil or minerals, no one was interested in it. The failure to stop the genocide has encouraged violence in other parts of the world and in Africa, Darfur in Sudan, especially and it is ongoing even now. And the world is indifferent to this hatred and violence!
After the Holocaust, it was said, ‘Never Again', but the ‘Never again' never came. In the contrary and to our shame, it happened in Rwanda, it happened in Bosnia, it is happening in Darfur and under other colours elsewhere.
To stand up to hatred can only succeed if it is done through education at home where children learn first. Then it has to be the priority of statutory institutions and voluntary organisations to start fighting for the rehabilitation of the sacredness of life. Life and death have been so violated and banalised that taking the life of another human being seems easy today. We all need to stand up to hatred because one day, we will have to answer this question, ‘Where is your brother?' We shall never be allowed to say, ‘I do not know, am I my brother's or sister's keeper?' We will all know where they are lying.
Thank you for listening.
‘Violence as Institution in African Religious Experience: A case Study of Rwanda' in Andrew Mackenna (ed.,), Contagion (Chicago: Loyola University, [Vol. 8], 2001), pp. 39-68
‘Genocide in the name of "Salvation": The Combined Contribution of Biblical Translation/Interpretation and Indigenous Myth to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide', in Jonneke Bekkenkamp & Yvonne Sherwood, (eds.); Sanctified Aggression: Legacies of Biblical and Post-Biblical Vocabularies of Violence (London, New York: T & T Clark, A Continuum imprint, 2003), pp. 60-75.
Kingston Holocaust commemorative event - 25 January 2009
The Revd Bruce Stuart chaired and began the event organised by the Kingston Inter Faith Forum on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames with a statement of commitment from the Holocaust Memorial Day trust which unites all the events around the country. The Mayor, Cllr David Berry and Deputy Mayor, Cllr Rohan Yoganathan continued on the themes of standing up to hatred locally as well as internationally. Rabbi Michael Rosenfeld of Kingston, Surbiton and District Synagogue spoke next and then Judy Thwaites a representative of the Kingston Liberal Synagogue read a poem. Children and youth from the KLS sang songs led by Tammy Rich and youth from KSDS recited poems and readings on the theme all of which were much appreciated by the large audience. Because of the persistent rain, this entire event which was meant to be held first at Memorial Gardens, Church Street (in front of the memorial tree planted to commemorate the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust) and then at the Guildhall, had been moved indoors to the Guildhall.
After a short break, we heard the three keynote speakers: Philip Spencer (Associate Dean, Kingston University), Revd Malachie Munyaneza, and Rebecca Mear (Refugee Action Kingston).
Philip Spencer, who teaches an MA in Human Rights and Genocide Studies at the University, gave a succinct and inspiring talk about the need to challenge the ideology of hate wherever it rears its ugly head. The Holocaust was organised murder by the State on an industrial scale aiming to wipe out an entire race, using the rhetoric of hatred to legitimate such killing by ordinary state employees. We need to understand what happened, initially in the holocaust but also in later genocides and keep it from happening again by challenging such hate ideologies early and vigorously.
Revd Dr. Munyaneza, a witness to the Rwandan massacre in 1994, detailed both the colonial background and the events leading up to this unprecedentedly savage and severe killing spree - one million mainly Tutsi killed in 100 days. His personal experiences of fear and hatred while growing up and during this period provided us with an insight into how hatred, violence, and scapegoating spiralled, institutionalised by the state. The international community did not intervene. He ended with the cry that we must all be our brother's/sister's keeper and must pay attention and not allow such things to happen.
Rebecca Mear told us of her work with asylum seekers and refugees in Kingston. She began by outlining recent restrictions and changes to the Geneva Convention of 1951 and the increasing ‘Fortress Europe' approach making it more difficult for those persecuted by their governments from fleeing to safety and a new life elsewhere. She also told us of difficulties faced by these groups in Kingston now (some 30 nationalities currently represented) - asylum seekers not allowed to work or take English classes in their first 6 months here; often traumatised by their experiences of persecution and violence; having to make a legal case for refugee status to rebuild their lives. As to what might be our contribution - she suggested we must be the person who writes to the Editor about a headline showing gross bias; or respond to a hateful remark in a bus queue about ‘scroungers' or make a protest regarding policies we think are wrong. All acts of hatred are prefaced by rhetoric ahead of time. We must stand up to it- here in Kingston as well as everywhere.
Our series of Film Showings
Throughout the month of January we sponsored film showings in different venues on Holocaust/Genocide themes:
- ‘Life is Beautiful' was watched by some 20 viewers at the Orthodox Synagogue followed by a lively discussion.
- ‘Hotel Rwanda' was watched by a similar number at the Kingston United Reform Church, again followed by a discussion
- ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' was viewed by nearly 140 at a showing at the Kingston Odeon, followed by a foreshortened discussion.
- ‘Paperclips' was viewed by some 20 at the Liberal Synagogue who considered the genre of documentary for portraying the Holocaust.
SUMMARY OF REPORT ON THE LAUNCH IN THE SOUTH EAST ENGLAND REGION OF THE ‘FACE TO FACE AND SIDE BY SIDE’ FRAMEWORK FOR PARTNERSHIP IN A MULTI FAITH SOCIETY: 26 NOVEMBER 2008
“Turn strangers into partners for the good of the healthy society we all seek” was how Chaplain, Jonathan Frost, summed up the evening conference held at the University of Surrey (UniS) on 26th November 2006 for the South East Regional Launch of the Government’s Face to Face Side by Side Framework for Partnership in a Multi Faith Society
The Pro-Vice-Chancellor of UniS, Professor Bernard Weiss welcomed more than 140 people of a diversity of faiths from across the South East, from Kent to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to Milton Keynes; “many representing Interfaith work at grassroots level”.encouraging the arrival of a “new era of partnership between government and faith communities”, an empowering framework as “a consequence of changed attitudes on both sides” , “a catalyst for learning new skills, openness and strategies for engagement for the good we seek in common”. He saw it all as important for our global future, especially the future for young people.
The conferees heard the two keynote speakers, Laura Moffat MP representing the Minister for the South East, and Ciara Wells, Deputy Director of the Faiths and Social Cohesion Unit of the Department for Communities and Local Government, stress that partnerships were not only between faith organisations but also with local authorities and other public bodies.
This was reaffirmed in their answers to questions that raised concerns about some authorities’ reluctant nervousness to enter into agreements with faith groups, even when they shared common concerns for their local populations. Both speakers encouraged strategic partnerships to reflect on how well they worked with local interfaith forums, noting that in the South East a quarter of them have no faith representatives. (A recent Government white paper recommends every local authority to have an interfaith forum linked to its strategic partnership.) Ms. Wells also pointed out “the duty of local authorities to promote good relations between people of different backgrounds”.
Laura Moffat MP representing the Minister for the South East drew from her Crawley constituency experience and enthusiasm for interfaith dialogue and activity. She acknowledged the vital contribution of people of faith in all aspects of life, not least in community cohesion, by sustaining, across centuries and decades, the vital values of peace, altruism, care, respect, justice and compassion.
Faith Groups”, she said, “are a voice for local communities; a force for civil renewal and cohesion; a point of community contact for marginalised people and advocates for social justice; partners in regeneration; sources of volunteers; and managers of projects”. Referring to many good examples across the South East that counter adverse publicity about community tensions, she affirmed that “faith-based communities are often the most trusted and active organisations working among the most excluded and deprived groups”.
A new era of partnership between government and faith communities…:Ciara Wells Deputy Director of Faith and Cohesion Unit, Dept of Communities and Local Governmen outlined the three Principles and four Building Blocks of the Framework and stressed the need to build on what already exists by increasing the quality and quantity of interfaith relations and activities, so that they may truly be “a framework for daily life”.
The 3 principles of partnership, empowerment and choice had developed out of an independent commission’s report on the importance of relations with and between faith communities for integration and cohesion. The Framework that evolved out of this was not a “how-to” blueprint, but a way for appropriate choices to be made locally. There are two aspects –
- “Face-to-Face” dialogue that will help groups, organisations and individuals to get to know and understand each other, with their differences and similarities; and
- “Side-by-Side” working together in collaborative social action to achieve common aims.
The second part of the Conference focussed on South East England Faith Forum’s achievements and plans. The Forum has produced an Action Plan and has an interactive website www.se-faithforum.net and a membership list of over one thousand people and organisations.
For the full SEEFF report on the launch event, see the 'Our Files' section of this website
To read the following recent national documents on community cohesion and other inter faith discussions, please see the 'Our Files' section on our website:
'Face to Face and Side by Side: a framework for partnership in our multi faith society’ report from the Dept of Communities & Local Government
Our Shared Future (final report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion)
- The Government's response to the report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion
Building cohesive communities:The crucial role of the new local performance frameworks
Community Cohesion - notes by the CDF
Faith, Cohesion and Community Development
Single identity groups: CDF review (summary)
Support for victims of honour based violence
The Government supports victims of honour-based violence through a new national helpline for victims, partly funded by the Government and run by charity Karma Nirvana. Karma Nirvana launched the Honour Network Helpline earlier this year, which is staffed by victims of forced marriage or honour-based violence. It is active seven days a week from 9.30am to 9pm on 0800 5999 247. For more information on Karma Nirvana go to http://www.karmanirvana.org.uk/.
Members of the public seeking advice, help and support on honour-based violence should call the joint Home Office/Foreign Office Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151. It receives around 5,000 calls each year.
Kingston Interpreting Service (KIS)
The inclusion of advertisements below for resources or courses does not constitute an IFF endorsement for these:
KIS was launched in 2004 and provides a means of communication for people who do not have English as a first language and people who have a sensory impairment.
The service has grown over the last 3 years to include a multi-lingual helpline in 5 languages.
Tel: 020 8547 5818