Faith Charities Forum: Going beyond echo chambers, prevalence of hate crime and more

17 Sep 2019 Voices

Civil Society Media’s inaugural Faith Charities Forum saw speakers address a plethora of issues affecting faith based charities and the sector as a whole. 

Here are some of the key topics which were discussed at the event.

Addressing polarisation: ‘We can all find ways to reach out’

Fadi Itani, CEO of the Muslim Charities Forum, chaired the event. He said faith-based charities must go beyond their “own echo chambers” to address “polarisation”.

“We do not want echo chambers, we have enough of them,” he said.

This point was addressed by other speakers throughout the day. Jatinder Singh Birdi, co-chair of the Inter Faith Network, said “positive interfaith relationships are not always easy” but “we can all find ways to reach out”.

Itani said this was necessary in the context of Brexit, as charities are having to work across an increasingly divided society. He said this self-assessment would give faith based charities the opportunity to “continually improve”.

The importance of interfaith work was highlighted as a key area for work across the forum. But Dr Omar Khan, director of the Runnymede Trust, said that “faith organisations need to go beyond interfaith work” to tackle wider societal issues.

The prevalence of hate crime: ‘We live in a climate where people are scared’

Another key topic surrounded the rise in hate crime, much of which has been affecting faith-based charities. 

Home Office figures show there was a sharp increase in racially and religiously motivated hate crime around the 2016 EU referendum. The number of racially and religiously motivated hate crimes was 44 per cent higher than in July of the previous year.

Trupti Patel, president of the Hindu Forum of Britain, spoke about the “colossal”  growth of hate crime and added that faith gives “a very clear mandate to stand up for others”.

Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand added: “We live in a climate where people are scared”. She spoke about the importance of inviting people outside one's own faith, into shared spaces, in order to combat the issue.

Dr Khan added that faith based orgainisations had a responcibility to stand up for hate crimes which did not directly target their own identities.

Decline in resources: 'The biggest problem'

Birdi from the Inter Faith Network said “finance is probably the biggest problem at the moment”, adding that “opportunities need resources”. But he said that in his experience, if the purpose is good then people are willing to volunteer their time and resources.

Rabbi Gelfand echoed this sentiment: “We work in charities which are resource starved”. But she added that she had found faith charities were often at the forefront of the sector's work.

Daniel Singleton, the national executive director of FaithAction, said that the personal faith motivation of volunteers, and their understanding of community issues, meant they were often “the first in and last out”. 

He added that faith charities were connected with “marginalised groups” and that this is one of the reasons for the “longevity” of such organisations. 

Speakers throughout the day added that the decline in resources and possibility of a tumultuous Brexit mean faith-based charities should expect to be on the "frontline", as had been the case in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire.

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