24 / 06 / 21
by Raahim Zafar
The Faith & Belief Forum’s community work has taken on many forms over the years, from arts-based programmes to community dialogues, to spotlighting unsung community organisations and awarding them for their efforts!
Despite the array of forms they take, our programmes are all founded on the same aim: to bring people from across faith and cultural communities together, to transcend small-talk, and to build those essential human links and friendships that are at the core of a thriving community.
Today we are spotlighting a few of the ways we are working towards the vision of our founder, Sir Sigmund Sternberg, to build a society free of hate.
What is your first memory of your town? Where in it do you feel welcome? Where do you not?
What parts of your identity are immediately visible on the outside? Which parts do you keep hidden except to the people you are closest to? Why?
After beginning with some fun ice breakers, our Community Dialogue sessions dive deep beneath the surface to find out what really matters to each individual by asking questions like the ones you have just read.
When we bring cultural and religious groups together to take part in our dialogue sessions, we create a safe, welcoming and nurturing environment which allows participants to open up about what matters most to them and to connect over both common passions and shared pet peeves.
People from neighbouring communities who might never have met otherwise, come together to share their personal experiences of faith, identity, and living in their local communities. We deliberately design the process to be enjoyable and an intrinsically human experience of bonding, building rapport, trust, connections and, ultimately, the foundations of a society where people of all backgrounds can co-exist and thrive together.
The results have been astonishing – even though many of the sessions over the last year have taken place online due to Covid, we have shared laughter, hopes and fears, built friendships and secured promises of picnics in a (hopefully near) pandemic-free-future.
Among our arts project was the Mixed Up Chorus which was founded in 2013 on the simple idea that if we can sing together we can live well together. Bringing together people from different generations and different cultures, it displayed the power of music and art to bring us together and thrive. Although no longer a project run by F&BF, the choir continues today as part of a Community Interest Company called ‘Together Productions’.
Other projects we have run in the past include Urban Dialogue art displays and Female Voices which brought together women from different backgrounds to share experiences and ideas while enjoying art, comedy, food, music and performances. Although our current programmes are not cantered around art, our teams always welcome artistic and musical displays and in our community dialogue sessions we have even seen communities break into song mid-session to share their culture with each other!
LGBTQ+ Interfaith Network
F&BF’s LGBTQ+ Interfaith network creates a vital space for people of faith from LGBTQ+ backgrounds to come together, share, connect, and learn from each other. The network allows single-faith organisations and individuals to come together, share their experiences and take part in a range of events from poetry workshops to mindfulness sessions.
F&BF also runs LGBTQ+ Faith workshops for work places allowing participants to reflect, learn, and build their practice for working with and supporting LGBT+ people of faith. You can find out more about our LGBTQ+ work here.