Staff Showcase – Eli Tamir
29 / 06 / 20
22 / 06 / 20
Siobhan Anderson is this week’s staff showcase, and she shares about her journey with F&BF, the development of the Faith & Belief Forum’s LGBT programme, and the initial misconceptions made around interfaith work…
Siobhán Anderson – Programmes Coordinator, Workplace & Community
From a young age I held some pretty strong beliefs around animal rights and the environment. One of the effects of this for me was an early realisation that people hold very different beliefs to each other, and also that how we talk about our beliefs can provoke strong reactions in others.
With this in mind, one of the aspects I was intrigued by is how interfaith spaces can enable people to speak honestly about their different beliefs and experiences and encourage them to sit with the discomfort that these bring up.
There is so much unhelpful rhetoric in the public discourse about religion, faith and belief, and I think one of the most powerful ways of challenging this is through interpersonal interactions. I am interested in the potential for sparking friendships between people who we may not typically expect to get along, particularly young people.
I also think there is also an important role for interfaith organisations in highlighting and tackling the marginalisation faced by particular people of faith. On the LGBT+Faith programme, for example, we challenge the view that having a faith and being LGBT+ are necessarily opposed, and that there is only one way to be an LGBT+person of faith.
I was studying for my MA in Religion in Contemporary Society when I met someone who had participated in the Faith & Belief Forum (then 3FF) ParliaMentors programme and who recommended I check out the website. As soon as I did I watched a video about the School Linking programme and I felt an instant connection to the organisation and its approach. I knew right away that this was an organisation I wanted to work for. I say it was love at first sight!
We create opportunities for people to build supportive relationships with people from different faith and belief backgrounds to themselves, and we work towards better representation and inclusion for people of faith.
My favourite part of my job is supporting groups at workshops and events to challenge their assumptions and build their comfortability with experiences and beliefs different to their own.
That our trainings are R.E. lessons, and that I must be an expert on all faiths and religions. The truth is that our approach is more about helping people uncover the assumptions and biases they hold, as well as learning from personal stories. I like to think I know something about different faiths and religions though!
I didn’t realise that interfaith could be so focused on the personal, and could be about far more than theology and scripture alone (although this is part of it sometimes!). Something I really love about F&BF’s approach is that we try to make our activities accessible to people whatever background they are from and whatever level of faith literacy they have.
A great example is when we invite people at events to bring along an object that is special or meaningful to them – the objects people choose vary hugely from photographs, holy books, plants, clothing, badges, keys, flags, and many more. These objects open up conversations about a person’s life story, communities they are part of, their culture, heritage and family background – and yes their faith and religion – in ways that are multi-faceted, complex, and authentic to the people in the room and what matters to them.
I am most proud of the development of the LGBT+Faith programme. When I first started in my current role we have just secured funding and only had some fledgling ideas for how the programme might look. In the 2.5 years since then I have been part of the team that has grown the programme’s tools, scope and vision. I feel very lucky to have a job that allows me to connect with the amazing work going on across the LGBT+ sector and to play my part in advocating for better access, support and inclusion for LGBT+ people of faith.
The LGBT+Interfaith events we have put on for the last two years have been stand-out moments for me, connecting people from within our networks who would otherwise not have met, and supporting individuals to get involved with some of the great single-faith LGBT+ organisations out there!
I like walking, swimming, listening to podcasts, spending time with animals, playing board games, and learning more about self-care and mental health. I am also part of the Sunday Assembly community, and find participating in their services and community activities really enriching.