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20th Anniversary Brochure – InterFaith Network

June 20, 2017

20yThis brochure was produced to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Inter Faith Network in 2007, and includes information on some of the key events in the history of the Network.

FROM 1987 TO 2007: PROGRESS IN BUILDING GOOD INTER FAITH RELATIONS

20 years ago there was no formal framework in place enabling the representative bodies of the faiths to come together and to discuss matters of mutual concern.

The Inter Faith Network for the UK brought such a structure into being and this opportunity for the faiths to come together continues today, with the Network’s Faith Communities Forum and through its wider work.

20 years ago, religious identity and inter faith issues were low on the public agenda and faith communities were rarely consulted on matters of public policy.

Today, the importance of religious identity is widely recognised and inter faith issues are a high priority for both central and local government and in many other contexts. Faith communities are at key policy tables, such as the Faith Communities Consultative Council of the Department for Communities and Local Government, and inter faith issues are to be at the heart of a new strategy being developed within Government.

20 years ago there was inter faith activity of various kinds – for example that of the Council of Christians and Jews; the World Congress of Faiths; Religions for Peace (as it is now named); and the International Association of Religious Freedom; a number of local inter faith groups in cities such as Birmingham and Glasgow, and some faith community committees, such as the inter faith committee of the British Council of Churches. But there was no link between the initiatives to help share good practice across the UK and discuss complementary working. Today, as for the last 20 years, the Inter Faith Network provides that link between inter faith initiatives to help share good practice across the UK and this is now enhanced by linkages provided by member bodies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the English Regions

20 years ago, only around 30 local inter faith organisations were in place and no regional faith forums. Today, as the latest edition of the Inter Faith Network’s directory Inter Faith Organisations in the UK demonstrates, there are over 210 local inter faith bodies involving the key faiths in their areas, as well as 6 English regional faith forums and 2 under development. Where once there were no national inter faith linking structures in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, now there are the Northern Ireland Inter Faith Forum; the Scottish Inter Faith Council and the Inter Faith Council for Wales. Each is carrying out its own important programme of work. A major part of the Inter Faith Network’s work has been helping support new developments with advice, information and opportunities for sharing good practice.

20 years ago, few resources were available to help people wanting to work on inter faith issues. Today, there are increasing numbers of tools for dialogue and for development of inter faith structures. Many of these, for example Building Good Relations Between People of Different Faiths and Beliefs and  The Local Inter Faith Guide: Faith Community Cooperation in Action, are the fruit of work by the Inter Faith Network and its member bodies, in some cases with public sector partners.

20 years ago there was little public reflection on what it means for people of different faiths to live together and contribute as fellow citizens to a society where diversity is respected but where common values can underpin a just and harmonious society.

Such issues are now seen as crucial and the Inter Faith Network’s ‘Values in a Multi Faith Society’ and ‘Faith and Citizenship’ projects, its seminars and publications and work with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the Shared Act of Reflection and Commitment in the House of Lords at the time of the Millennium have made a key contribution to this.

20 years ago, it was rare to see coverage of inter faith issues in the media. But now the major broadcasters see this as an area to consider as a matter of course; many local radio stations, such as BBC local radio, have regular discussions on their religion programmes between members of different faiths; and the press is beginning to reflect greater awareness of the inter faith agenda. Understanding by faith groups of the concerns and needs of the media has also grown. The Inter Faith Network has been among those bodies which, together with the media, have contributed to this shift.

20 years ago, inter faith issues were rarely touched on in most classrooms despite the early pioneering work of some practitioners and of the Standing Conference on Inter Faith Dialogue in Education. Today, learning about inter faith issues is actively encouraged in documents such as the Non Statutory National Framework for RE in England and by local Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education. Increasingly, they are also covered in Citizenship Education. The Inter Faith

Network’s seminars and reports with partners including the National Association of SACREs, the Religious Education Council for England and Wales, the Shap Working Party on World Religions in Education and the Citizenship Foundation have contributed significantly to this shift.

20 years ago, it was unusual to see anyone under 30 in an inter faith meeting or project. Today, youth faith forums are springing up around the UK and many programmes of work to promote youth inter faith work are being developed.

20 years ago, almost no formal inter faith activity was taking place on campus and the national student religious organisations had little contact with one another. Today, inter faith groups are being developed in many institutions of higher education and, as the Inter Faith Network/Equality Challenge Unit conference in 2006 demonstrated, ‘good relations on campus’ is now a key area of work for student bodies; the National Union of Students; chaplaincies and higher education support bodies. The Inter Faith Network has had an important role in encouraging this.

20 years ago, women were largely invisible in many inter faith structures and events.

Today the voices of women are beginning to be heard in an increasing number of inter faith contexts. The Network commissioned report, Women’s Inter Faith Activity in the UK, found over 40 women’s initiatives now operating.

20 years ago, there was little material available about the faith communities in Britain and about their places of worship and their organisations. Today, Religions in the UK: A Directory (first published by the University of Derby with the Inter Faith Network in 1993) provides this overview and it has been joined by a wealth of other publications on aspects of the different communities.

There’s an interesting collection of photos from various events across the years.

It feel good to have been involved in this work sine (and indeed before) its inception.

It’s online here

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