15 / 07 / 20
London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, a beautiful mix of cultures, faiths and beliefs from across the globe. It is these varying identities that make London the dynamic and interesting city it is. Despite this, many individuals across London may face barriers of misunderstanding, exclusion, isolation or oppression because of their faith or belief, or other aspects of their identities (e.g. ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, age and ability). This issue has only been amplified with recent events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about divisions and furthered cases of isolation and exclusion. However, there exists many groups and projects across the city that fight tirelessly to break down these barriers, working at the intersections between faith, belief and other identities, to create inclusive spaces for all.
We at the Faith and Belief Forum believe it is more important than ever to share the stories of how faith groups are supporting their local communities, both in response to COVID-19, and their work in general.
For the past four years, we have had the pleasure of hosting the London Faith & Belief Community Awards. This allows us to shine a spotlight on these amazing groups, raising their profile and voice, and ensuring they can continue to work hard for their communities.
One example of an organisation that promotes inclusion is Sarbat LGBT Sikhs, a London Faith & Belief Community Award winner from 2019. Sarbat LGBT Sikhs is volunteer led organisation, based in Islington, that addresses, tackles and promotes LGBT+ issues from a Sikh perspective. The aim of the organisation is to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, to create a dialogue and to create stronger connections between and within the Sikh and LGBT+ community, and the intersection of these two groups. They hope to raise awareness and conversations on and for LGBT+ Sikhs, provide support and a community, and to develop resources and education surrounding the topic. They do this through hosting events in London, such as forums and workshops, amongst much more.
Despite COVID-19 meaning their work has had to change, this has not halted Sarbat LGBT Sikhs. They have moved their services online, where they host ‘Sarbat Socials’, allowing the important discussions and dialogues to continue. The group follows the Sikh principle of seva (selfless service) and this can be seen in the hard work they do, successfully creating a space for both practicing and non-practicing Sikhs, and members of the LGBT+ community, and those outside of it, to share their thoughts, ideas, and create a stronger community.
Another example of a group that promotes inclusion is Speak Street, a London Faith & Belief Community Award winner from 2019. Speak Street is a pop-up language café in London, that teaches English language to newcomers in the UK, amongst other fun and important classes and social events. Describing themselves as a “positive response to negativity” towards refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, Speak Street hopes to promote communication, community, and permaculture by offering free English classes to migrants.
Their mission, along with teaching the English language, is to create a strong community, particularly for those who are new within the country. They hope their English classes will create a network amongst these migrants, who may face a range of struggles and barriers based on their faith, belief, ethnicity and English language skills. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that they cannot run these classes, Speak Street stays committed to their cause and have moved their work online too, creating a blog and providing resources so people can learn English from home.
Sarbat LGBT Sikhs and Speak Street both shine a spotlight onto the importance of promoting inclusion across London, a nomination category for the London Faith & Belief Community Awards. This category focuses on the necessity of encouraging diversity and tackling oppression and exclusion, both outside of and between faith and belief groups and identities.
London’s diverse culture is what makes the city so important and interesting, and groups such as these two works so hard to ensure this can continue and grow deeper. Speak Street discussed that their win “has helped us raise our profile and attract new supporters to our work”, and Sarbat LGBT Sikhs described it as “a great boost to morale and a great way to feel connected to a wider group of people trying to make positive changes to the lives of people of faith”.
With our upcoming London Faith & Belief Community Awards 2020, we hope to share the stories of similar, important work. If you know of any grassroots projects or groups of unsung community heroes that deserve to be celebrated, please nominate them now.
Each winner will be given awards of £500 and will be invited to attend an awards ceremony (we are reviewing this in light of COVID-19). For more information on the awards and nomination criteria, please visit here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
30 / 09 / 20
24 / 09 / 20