Importance of IFN’s work
1) A vital resource in a religiously diverse UK - the importance of the Inter Faith Network’s work
The Inter Faith Network for the UK (IFN) www.interfaith.org.uk was founded in 1987, following two years of consultation, to “advance public knowledge and mutual understanding of the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in Britain including an awareness both of their distinctive features and their common ground and to promote good relations between people of different faiths in this country”.
IFN’s vision is of “a society where there is understanding of the diversity and richness of the faith communities in the UK and the contribution that they make; and where we live and work together with mutual respect and shared commitment to the common good”. As part of that, it has always had a strong focus on shared values as a basis for working together for the benefit of wider society.
IFN’s member bodies include: national faith community representative bodies from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other smaller but significant faith communities of the UK; national and regional inter faith organisations; local inter faith bodies; and educational and academic bodies with an interest in multi faith and inter faith issues. A list of these can be seen at www.interfaith.org.uk/members/list and details of its multi faith Board of Trustees can be found at www.interfaith.org.uk/about/people.
IFN works with its member bodies and many others to promote good inter faith relations and cooperation at every level, to highlight the importance of this work, and to ensure that the importance of religious identity and of good inter faith relations is understood in wider society. Through its major Inter Faith Week programme, it also promotes dialogue between those of religious and non-religious beliefs and extends each year the number of number of schools, HE and FE and youth bodies engaged with its work.
Today, this work is even more important than it was at the time of IFN's founding. Over recent years, there has been a major growth of interest in inter faith issues and greater recognition of the importance of religion in the life of many of the UK's citizens. At the same time, much work remains to be done to counteract prejudice and suspicion, to encourage understanding and to foster practical cooperation.
2) Practical action for positive inter faith outcomes
A leaflet about IFN’s work can be found at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/resources/inter-faith-network-leaflet.
Through its meetings, programmes and publications IFN provides important opportunities for sharing of good practice, discussion of challenges and reflection on ways forward in the development and strengthening of a society rooted in shared values.
Examples of its work across the last year include:
- Leading on the largest national Inter Faith Week to date (www.interfaithweek.org) in November, enabling thousands more people to deepen their religious literacy and make new connections with others of different faiths and beliefs;
- Encouraging response on an inter faith basis, to tackle and report religious hate crime, including publishing an updated edition of Looking after one another: The safety and security of our faith communities (in partnership with DLUHC, Home Office, CPS, National Police Chiefs’ Council, National Fire Chiefs Council and EHRC)
- Supporting the development and strengthening of local inter faith engagement through publications such as Deep Connections: Women’s Local Inter Faith Initiatives in the UK (March 2023) and link meetings for sharing of good practice between local groups.
- Bringing together national faith community bodies to discuss topics such as faith and organ donation, faith and social care, and hate crime; and to share good practice on working with other faith communities on social issues.
- Bringing together national and regional inter faith organisations, educational and academic bodies to discuss topics such as working for religious literacy, and tackling difficult issues through dialogue.
- Using social media to raise awareness of the importance of good inter faith relations, to advance positive narratives about inter faith relations in the UK, and to increase understanding of the different faiths in the UK, including through sharing dates of religious festivals.
IFN monitors and evaluates its work carefully to ensure that it is continuing to be effective in enabling an ever growing number of people in the UK to take part and benefit from stronger inter faith relations; tackle ignorance, prejudice and hatred linked to religious identity; grow their religious literacy; develop bonds of trust and friendship; and cooperate on social action projects for the benefit of wider society.
Responding in challenging times
Following the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October and subsequent Israel-Hamas war there has been a sharp rise in antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents in the UK and considerable impact on community relationships. IFN has responded in a number of ways:
- on 20 October, IFN’s Board of Trustees put out a widely distributed statement in the context of National Hate Crime Awareness Week on: Standing Together Against Hate Crime. https://www.interfaith.org.uk/news/standing-together-against-hate-crime
- regular social media posts and mailings about tackling antisemitic and anti Muslim hate crime (eg IFN Circular 28/23 - Current events and responding to tensions and hate crime which can be seen at: IFN Circular 28/23 - CURRENT... - Inter Faith Network for the UK | Facebook);
- regular phone calls to local inter faith groups to discuss how they were/are engaging;
- conversations with relevant national faith community figures;
- gathering information on inter faith statements, vigils etc at local level and sharing on the IFN website (https://www.interfaith.org.uk/news/inter-faith-statements-vigils-prayer-gatherings); and
- response to enquiries from bodies such as workplaces seeking advice on how to handle conversations with/between employees in the context of impacts of the situation.
As the Board said in its statement in October:
“As well as responding through reporting hate incidents and raised security, it is vital that we stand together and respond in solidarity where people would seek to divide through inflammatory rhetoric or intimidation.
Views on situations and actions in the UK and internationally may differ (indeed may differ profoundly, with people deeply affected by events); what cannot and must not waiver is our commitment as people of different faiths in the UK to maintaining a safe environment for our lives together and to sustaining and continuing to develop relationships of trust and respect.”
3) Government funding towards IFN’s work
Information about IFN's funding, including from Government, has been moved to a new 'About' section: IFN Funding