Inter faith engagement in social action
Inter faith activity comes in many shapes and sizes, from small meetings for dialogue to collaborative arts programmes; from educational activities to projects serving the local community.
“Whilst affirming the value of meeting and listening, it is also our belief that common action, grounded in our religious commitments, adds a valuable dimension to our relationships. The process of seeking agreement about which issues to tackle and how to proceed may well reveal a wide diversity of perspectives. Truly common action therefore requires sensitive consultation at all stages and needs to be planned, undertaken and reviewed together. “
Statement on Inter-Religious Relations in Britain, Inter Faith Network for the UK
All faith traditions teach the importance of serving others and have programmes which put this teaching into action.
Increasingly, communities make common cause on social issues. Working together to address need in our communities – often referred to as ‘social action’ – puts common values into action and demonstrates faith communities’ commitment to the common good.
Some examples of actions taken by faith and inter faith bodies, sometimes with other partners, include:
- Collaborating locally or nationally as part of larger, coordinated campaigns on humanitarian issues, such as debt reduction or food poverty
- Working together to tackle hate crime or other social problems affecting people in local communities
- Improving public spaces, for example by cleaning graffiti, litter-picking in a local park or tree-planting
- Organising a support network to help refugees and migrants in need
- Joining with healthcare professionals to run health awareness days
- Organising fundraisers for local, national or international causes
- Holding joint practically focused discussions or activities focusing on issues currently affecting the local community
- Participating in national faith-based days of social action, rooted in the traditions of particular faith communities such as Mitvah Day, Sadaqa Day and Sewa Day.
In some cases, inter faith encounter begins with the social action initiative; in other cases, social action is one of the outcomes of dialogue:
“To work together means understanding each other’s beliefs which we do by discussion and dialogue. This must be done in safety without fear of being forced to accept the beliefs as your faith. Inter faith encounter is the vehicle to do this. It is usually local – city, borough – and seeks to encourage conversation between faiths in an enclosed or public environment. In this scenario, friendships are made and the group often turns outward into the community to address our challenges.”
Welwyn Hatfield Inter Faith Group
National networks and initiatives
There are a wide range of initiatives designed to encourage and enable inter faith social action. These include:
Citizens UK organises communities to act together for social justice and the common good and describes itself as the “home of community organising in the UK, with diverse civil society”
Faith Action is a network of faith-based and community organisations serving their communities by delivering public services
The Near Neighbours programme, an initiative of the Church Urban Fund with the Archbishops’ Council, with support from the Department for Communities and Local Government, helps bring together people from diverse communities to improve their neighbourhoods and administers a grant programme which supports this.
Three special days
National faith-based days of social action are also held annually, and these are often rooted in the traditions of particular faith communities but encourage inter faith projects. Three examples are below:
- Mitzvah Day is a Jewish-led day of social action which encourages inter faith involvement. The objective is to encourage people to give their time, rather than their money, to worthwhile local causes, whilst also creating deeper linkages within communities and supporting charities.
- Sadaqa Day is a day of social action led by the Muslim community for individuals, community groups, mosques, women’s groups, schools and families. Organisations and individuals from other faiths have also joined in.
- Sewa Day is an international day of social action where people come together to do good in their communities. The term ‘sewa’ is rooted in the dharmic traditions; the involvement is wider.
All of the websites listed above contain resources designed to help those considering running inter faith social action projects. Other resources that may be helpful include:
The Faiths Working Together Toolkit is a short resource produced by IFN in partnership with Near Neighbours, designed to help people wishing to get involved in – or set up – inter faith social action resources.
Many local inter faith groups are involved in social action initiatives, whether through running their own long-term projects, through linking with existing programmes, or through running shorter-term and one-off activities. To find out what is happening near you, contact your local inter faith group via our locator or get in touch with the IFN office.