School Linking in Birmingham & London
02 / 02 / 23
15 / 12 / 22
It’s been a tough year. In February war broke out between Russia and Ukraine, triggering a humanitarian crisis and a hike in the cost of living that has affected us all, and more so the poor and vulnerable. At the same time, we began to emerge from the enforced culture of lockdowns, posing new challenges for working patterns and the cohesion of workforces. F&BF was not immune to the ‘big resign’ and we lost several key employees as careers and life choices were reassessed. Hate crime has continued to rise, with the persistence of conflict in Israel/Palestine casting a shadow over interfaith relations in the UK and nationalist politics on the Indian sub-continent spilling over into the UK, manifested in an escalation of Hindu/Muslim tension in Leicester and elsewhere. Climate change has struggled to maintain top spot on the list of priority issues as an economic recession begins to bite, public sector strikes multiply, and the NHS continues to fracture. With these huge challenges facing us it is important that our political leaders show resolve and integrity. Sadly, despite some outstanding work by MPs across the country (a Knighthood for our Champion Stephen Timms MP and the work of our ParliaMentors mentor Ian Byrne MP stand out) this has often been lacking. The death of HRH Queen Elizabeth II in September has only added to the growing unease.
Against this background, it is an achievement that F&BF remains robustly operational and relevant! Our award winning youth leadership programme has continued to run, with the participation of nine universities and two alumni youth hubs ; we launched a major external evaluation of this (ParliaMentors) programme that will inform it’s further development; our London Faith & Belief Awards at Westminster Abbey was a shot in the arm, spotlighting the amazing response of faith based organisations to the multiple challenges our society faces; the second London Interfaith Fun Run provided an important opportunity for people of different faiths and beliefs to connect on a large scale; our resources for schools on identity and respect continue to be favourite downloads for teachers across the country; despite all the catching up facing schools after lockdowns, our workshops and school linking have continued; we launched new local engagement in Manchester, complementing our existing programmes in London and the West Midlands; research into parental engagement in Education in Religion and Worldviews in schools has led to further practical work on this for next year; our Faith + LGBTQ network has been sustained; we have successfully scaled up our workplace training offer , adding some significant corporate clients to our portfolio; and we remain an active partner in the Government’s Faith New Deal Pilot scheme.
Cumulatively, at the national level, we have prevented future prejudice and hate through our work in and with schools; strengthened interfaith relations at the community level through channelling emerging young leaders; brought attention to the importance of faith based social action in our society through major public events; positively influenced how local authorities and corporate companies handle faith and belief through training and awareness raising; and further cemented the handling of faith & belief identity as a key component of wider social cohesion through our advocacy and programming.
None of this can happen without the commitment and dedication of our skilled staff team, our trustees, our volunteers, our partners, and our donors. I would like to express my gratitude to our excellent Chair of Trustees, Michael Sternberg, who is standing down at the end of this month. Michael has been at the core of our good governance over the past years, providing consistent guidance, advice, and monitoring. We will miss him a great deal but know he will remain connected.
As we look ahead, I am minded that the challenge of meshing interfaith relations with the social change needed to address the issues highlighted above cannot be met without collaboration. The 2021 Census data on religion released last month points to an increasingly diverse and complex faith and belief landscape in England and Wales. In 2023 we will be pushing ahead with a new strategy which will operationalise this idea of meshing interfaith with social change. We will be seeking new partners and supporters to join those we are already lucky to work with, to project a stronger interfaith voice on the issues that matter. There will be more information about this in the New Year.
In the meantime, thank you to all who have stuck by us, worked with us, and helped us learn through the past, challenging year. We wish you some quality time for reflection and rest with those closest to you, as we all prepare for 2023.