What we do
The charitable aims of the Inter Faith Network are:
...[T]o advance public knowledge and mutual understanding of the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in Britain including awareness both of their distinctive features and their common ground and to promote good relations between persons of different faiths.
Through its meetings and its advice and information service, IFN, with its member bodies, helps make better known and understood the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in the UK and the pattern of their inter faith work and builds good relations between people of different faiths in the UK.
Through its Inter Faith Week programme, and through other ad hoc routes, it also works to develop greater understanding between those of religious and those of non-religious beliefs.
Sharing of information and good practice, support and advice
An important part of IFN's work is gathering and disseminating information and good practice and providing support and advice as part of supporting and strengthening inter faith understanding and good inter faith relations in the UK. Members of the public, faith communities, voluntary bodies such as youth organisations, schools, public agencies, academics and many others – from the UK and overseas – draw on IFN's experience of building good relations, and its network of contacts. (see 'Advice and information' below).
IFN provides, in consultation with its member bodies and others, information and advice to a wide range of organisations and individuals. These range from local inter faith groups to chaplaincies, youth organisations and Government departments. They include both grassroots initiatives and national and UK organisations. The IFN website contains information about inter faith relations in the UK in a wide range of contexts and has a wealth of information for those seeking to set up a local inter faith group. The website also lists all of IFN's member bodies and provides a means of contacting them. Many of its publications and briefing notes are available to download for free. IFN also runs a separate website, www.interfaithweek.org, which contains event listings and information about Inter Faith Week in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, on which IFN leads.
IFN sends Circulars throughout the year to member bodies about matters connected to its work and developments relevant to inter faith engagement, including in as the area of public policy. This is part of supporting member bodies in their work for greater understanding about and between faith communities. It also distributes information more widely through its regular e-bulletin, which carries information about inter faith projects, relevant national updates, research projects, funding opportunities, and upcoming inter faith events.
IFN has produced a number of resources to assist those working to build good relations, including studies and research to support emerging dialogues and patterns of engagement. See our Publications page. These help users to strengthen existing projects and develop new projects and dialogues.
IFN's office responds, where possible, to requests to speak about IFN's work and also specific issues such as the importance of the work of local inter faith bodies or regional networking.
Increasing engagement in inter faith learning, dialogue and cooperation
IFN helps member bodies and others provide opportunities for people of all ages to get involved in projects and events which can help increase inter faith learning, dialogue and cooperation.
A key route through which IFN helps new people become involved in inter faith activity is Inter Faith Week. This has run in England and Wales since 2009, in partnership with the Government for the first year. Northern Ireland joined in the Week in 2010. A separate, very successful, Inter Faith Week has run in Scotland since 2004.
The aims of Inter Faith Week are: strengthening good inter faith relations at all levels; increasing awareness of the different and distinct faith communities in the UK, in particular celebrating and building on the contribution which their members make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society; and increasing understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs. See the Inter Faith Week website for further information.
There is increasing recognition of the importance of inter faith understanding and inter faith cooperation. IFN advocates for greater involvement in, and support of, programmes to develop positive inter faith understanding and engagement and to help draw more people of all ages into this vital work. It also works to increase opportunities for involvement and to help those working to put inter faith engagement at the heart of local communities and national society.
Part of IFN's work involves advocacy in the area of faith and public life. This involves a two-way process in which IFN ensures that its members are kept up to date with policy decisions relevant to the field of inter faith engagement which can help them to contribute to consultation processes on areas of relevance. IFN regularly keeps members up to date in sectional/category meetings; through briefing notes published on this website; its regular e-bulletin; member Circulars; and provision of relevant information through its information and advice service to Government and other bodies.
Linking and sharing good practice
An important part of IFN's work as a 'network' is facilitating and encouraging links between member bodies and between member bodies and others enabling interchange between inter faith practitioners at local, regional and national level (see 'linking' below).
Local and Regional Inter Faith Organisations
IFN links in direct membership many local inter faith organisations (LIFOs) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Within England, IFN links in membership a number of regional multi faith bodies which play a significant role in their regions.
IFN holds linking meetings for local groups. These meetings bring together local inter faith practitioners at regional level, to help learn from one another and provide opportunities to share good practice. This, in turn, feeds into IFN's work and helps to shape its patterns of engagement at all levels. Regional Faith Forums, in regions where these continue to exist, are consulted and invited to participate.
Since the dismantling of regional structures of governance in 2011 a number of Regional Faith Forums have ceased to operate. IFN also holds periodic ad-hoc meetings for remaining member Regional Faith Forums in England.
National inter faith linking bodies of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
At the UK level, IFN links in membership the Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum, Interfaith Scotland and the Inter-faith Council for Wales. These bodies play an important role in linking and in terms of advocacy work with their devolved Governments. Interfaith Scotland leads on Scottish Interfaith Week as well as on a broad programme of work with local bodies in Scotland and on other fronts such as equalities. Local inter faith groups in Scotland are linked by Interfaith Scotland.
IFN holds an annual meeting between representatives of IFN and the linking bodies of the devolved nations.
National Inter Faith Organisations
IFN holds annual link meetings between member national inter faith organisations, as well as ad-hoc meetings on specific issues or areas of work - for example it facilitated, with the National Union of Students, a series of meetings between national inter faith organisations who were carrying out programmes of work on Higher and Further Education (HE/FE) campuses. Such meetings enable participants to share experiences, explore avenues of cooperation and help enable unnecessary duplication of work.
National Faith Community Representative Bodies
In addition to inter faith organisations, IFN currently links in membership national faith community representative bodies. Representatives from member bodies in this category meet together regularly as IFN's Faith Communities Forum, which discusses and consults on matters of common concern and has a particular focus on public policy issues. This has a dual function as the category's 'link meeting' and an opportunity for joint discussion on issues of common concern and interest.
Linking and facilitation more widely
IFN's annual National Meeting brings together representatives of all IFN's categories of member as well as its trustees, to discuss issues around a common theme.
The wider world
A number of IFN's member bodies, such as UK branches of international inter faith organisations, have a particular focus on international issues.
The focus of IFN's work is on inter faith relations in the UK. At the same time, it is interested to learn about relevant developments in inter faith work overseas and has a commitment to sharing the experiences of British inter faith work with practitioners in other countries, countries, particularly with Commonwealth and EU nations, of whom a number visit the IFN office during the year. Many others seek advice by email and telephone. IFN also, as the opportunity to do so arises, helps its member bodies make overseas links.