Successful dialogue including non-religious representatives
The BHA is particularly concerned that government policy regarding the voluntary and community sector does not celebrate the contribution that is made by non-religious individuals and organisations. Over the course of Interfaith Week 2009, the BHA therefore released 5 case studies detailing projects or events which have involved people from all different religion or belief backgrounds in an open and neutral way.
Case Study 1:
European Humanist Federation President speaks at EU conference on Intercultural Dialogue
David Pollock, EHF President, was a “key contributor” to an invitation-only EU conference on “Intercultural Dialogue – A Challenge for Faiths and Convictions?”, held in Brussels on 11 November 2008. About 100 people attended from 21 countries and many international organisations, including the two bishops’ conferences. There were three sessions, each with two main speakers and a panel of commentators. The first session was on education and the second on the media. The third session was on “Challenges for Dialogue between Faiths and Conviction”, and the two key speakers were Vebjørn L. Horsfjord, general secretary of Religions for Peace, and David Pollock. You can read David’s paper here.
Case Study 2:
“Euphonix is a community choir founded and run by humanist volunteers in order to share the pleasures and benefits of singing with others who might feel uncomfortable singing either classical or religious music. But it’s not a humanist choir, it’s secular – that is, it’s open to anyone of any faith or none. Members aren’t asked about their religion or philosophy, but the organisers believe that the choir’s popular repertoire, accessibility and affordability (members are trusted to pay what they can at each rehearsal) bring a broad cross-section of the local community together to make music and new friends.”
Case Study 3:
Humanists and Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource
Humanists have been part of Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource since Dr David Capey and Cynthia Capey founded it in the early 1990s.
SIFRE is a charity that provides educational resources for schools and county service providers. Teams of tutors, including a humanist, are available to talk about their beliefs and to play Diversity, an educational board game.
The Forum of Faiths, including Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Sikh, Taoist and Zoroastrian representatives, meets several times a year to discuss different subjects. The main speakers’ contributions are published in SIFRE booklets and on the website.
Case Study 4:
Religion or belief group in a police constabulary chaired by the humanist representative
There is natural suspicion by people ‘at the sharp end’ of yet more political correctness and form filling added to their already stressful jobs and the idea of religion & belief rearing it’s head does not make them comfortable. They are hugely relieved to find someone from the R&B strand who is a strong adherent to human rights but also pretty down to earth & pragmatic. Several officers have remarked that they are very glad that someone is there to represent the Humanist viewpoint which, although rarely articulated directly, is the mainstream ethos of most officers.
I have been able to intervene several times in workshops to put across the principles of empathy and openness, to general agreement from the other participants. I have now got contacts in diversity training and front line policing (including officers involved in trying to prevent extremist terror organisations from taking hold on young people) across several police forces and will be attending a national IAG conference in Manchester at the beginning of December.
Case Study 5:
Religion and belief consultative group
The Religion and Belief Consultative Group was established in 2004 as a reference group for the religion and belief representatives on the Steering Group for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). It later expanded its remit and has become a useful forum for the discussion of a wider range of issues and concerns relevant to its member organisations from a faith/belief perspective.
The Group comprises the national representative bodies in membership of the Inter Faith Network for the UK (from the nine faith communities directly linked by it), the Inter Faith Network office, Faithworks, the Evangelical Alliance, CARE, the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society. The addition of other members and observers may be agreed if there is a consensus among existing members.