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A new report published by the Faith & Belief Forum and the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London has issued recommendations to help create a London that’s more inclusive of people of different faiths and beliefs. The report crucially recommends that those who hold power – political and religious leaders, policymakers, trustees and shareholders of companies and charities – should actively learn about and encounter people from minority groups who are excluded.
The newly released report, ‘Faith, Belief and Inclusion’, draws on insights from a June 2018 roundtable event where 25 local organisations, academics and policy experts gathered to discuss factors for exclusion for Londoners from different faiths and beliefs, and to share good practice on inclusion. The report finds that while everyone can work for inclusion, the main burden of responsibility to create inclusive spaces should rest on those who have the power to do so, rather than expecting excluded groups to try to fit themselves in.
It is the first of a series of three reports supported by a grant from Dangoor Education which look at different aspects of belief and belonging in London.
Social inclusion is a crucial aspect of a sense of belonging. As human beings we want to bring our whole selves into our families, our neighbourhoods, our places of work and our public spaces. At times these groups and spaces do not welcome us fully, either by intentional design or through a lack of understanding, creativity or flexibility.
When part of ourselves is excluded, it dampens our sense of belonging and limits our potential to contribute to society. Social exclusion has a profound social and emotional impact on people. The report highlights how long-term exclusion can cause social and political withdrawal and have lasting impact on relationships, mental well-being and trust. It can also lead to questioning one’s belonging and to isolation from society.
An inclusive space is defined as one which welcomes the whole person, where people can be themselves authentically and bring all aspects of their identity into the space. The report includes case studies of organisations working for inclusion, including educating about other faiths and beliefs in schools, colleges, universities and communities, educating for inclusion within faith groups, and bringing faith groups with schools, unions, voluntary groups together for common causes.
The report concludes with recommendations for moving forward on a journey toward inclusion: “We have much to celebrate about London as a city which hosts people from all backgrounds. Yet there are many people who are excluded every day due to their age, religion, class, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and in many other ways – there is a long journey yet to go. By sharing positive examples of inclusion, we can inspire others and challenge ourselves to continue the difficult and necessary work to make London a place where everyone belongs fully.”
The full report can be downloaded from the Faith & Belief Forum’s website. The aim is that it will serve as a guide for those looking to remove barriers to belonging both in London and the rest of the country.
For more information:
Phone: 0207 482 9535
‘Faith, Belief and Inclusion’ was written by Jonathan D Smith, Lenita Törning, Ben Gidley and Ruth Sheldon, in a collaboration between the Faith & Belief Forum and the Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London.
The report draws on insights from a June 2018 roundtable discussion with the same title. It is one of three such roundtables hosted by the Faith & Belief Forum and the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck. The roundtables brought together local organisations, academics and policy experts 1) to understand the issues and their impact on local communities, and 2) to share good practice for local initiatives working for social inclusion and belonging.
Presenters at the roundtable and respondents who are mentioned in the paper include:
The Faith & Belief Forum has worked for over 20 years to build good relations between people of all faiths and beliefs, and to create a society where difference is celebrated. The organization creates spaces in schools, universities, workplaces and the wider community where people can engage with questions of belief and identity and meet people different from themselves. We were founded in 1997 as the Three Faiths Forum. Over the years our work expanded to include people of all faiths and beliefs, both religious and non-religious. In 2018, we changed our name to the Faith & Belief Forum to better reflect this inclusive ethos. For more information, see https://faithbeliefforum.org
The Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London (BDPS) was founded in 2000 and aims to investigate a wide range of contemporary social, political and personal concerns. The Department is unique in its interdisciplinary focus and draws together academics and clinicians from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds to think together about the relation between social and psychic life. For more information, see http://www.bbk.ac.uk/psychosocial/about-us.
Briefings on Faith, Belief and Belonging are supported by a grant from Dangoor Education (http://dangooreducation.com).