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HOPE not hate

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Beccles More In Common Gets Going

posted by: Owen Jones | on: Monday, 21 November 2016, 13:30

On a cold but bright winter morning on the northern edge of Suffolk, just under 150 people dropped by the Beccles #MoreInCommon pop-up café to have a chat with fellow residents of the town – most of them for the first time.

Beccles is a small but pretty market town famed as the gateway to the Norfolk Broads. It's not a town that instantly springs to mind when you think of HOPE not hate’s work.

Nevertheless, as more and more towns in East Anglia get designated “London overspill” (and the large housing projects that follow), a group of dedicated and hardworking local residents are taking a proactive approach to ensure that the sense of community is not lost.

Given the café was competing with some sore heads from the beer festival the night before, it can certainly be considered a fantastic success.

A real cross-section of the community came through the doors. Different generations, some with faith backgrounds, and some from new migrant communities all chatted away over free tea and cake, where the questions on the tables invited people to think what could be done in the town to make things better.

It was lovely hearing all the ideas that people came up with and this is certainly only just to start of the #MoreInCommon campaign in Beccles. Hopefully, the café can be seen as a springboard to a wider community dialogue for the town, helping Beccles move forward together.

For more information on how to get involved with the local campaign, please contact [email protected]

 Posted: 21 Nov 2016 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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How interfaith friendships strengthen communities

posted by: Jemma Levene | on: Wednesday, 16 November 2016, 16:26

Faith leaders at Woolwich, following the murder of Lee Rigby

Faith leaders at Woolwich, following the murder of Lee Rigby

This Sunday, I’ll be attending a post-wedding meal for a Hindu couple, hosted by mutual friends in Golders Green, in the company of Jewish, Christian and Muslim guests. No prizes for guessing that the Jewish tradition of post-wedding sheva brachot meals has been borrowed (without the sheva brachot themselves of course) to allow us all to celebrate the wedding of dear friends who got married in India earlier this month.

Why are we all friends? Because we have all chosen to get actively involved in interfaith work in the UK. However, if you are picturing rabbis, vicars and imams sipping tea and bemoaning the lack of parking spaces outside their respective places of worship, you are very far off the mark.

The best examples of interfaith encounters I’ve come across allow people to explore and celebrate shared identities, but also create a space to discuss differences in a more constructive manner. When an interfaith encounter leads to a friendship, the growth in trust allows people to disagree better. Two individuals can hold theological views which are fundamentally different to, or even hostile towards, each other but at an operational level there is much they can gain from working together.

Classic examples of faith communities working together include the defence of faith-based circumcision and religious slaughter but in a society with an increasingly secularist agenda can now include collaboration on best practice for integrated curricula for faith schools, or representation to universities on issues such as co-ed halls of residence, exam clashes with festivals, availability of prayer space etc.

However, working at HOPE not hate, I see a more fundamental place for interfaith work, which proves vital in drawing people together when a crisis hits. When serving British soldier Lee Rigby was murdered outside Woolwich Barracks in 2013 by two men claiming supposed retaliation for British military involvement in Muslim countries, the government had few Muslim organisations with whom they had ongoing relationships. It was the existing interfaith connections which allowed Muslim organisations to very quickly speak out against the attack, and to stand together with leaders of many faith organisations, all committed to showing solidarity at a time of great community stress. With the EDL clashing with the police on the streets in Woolwich, and organising demonstrations up and down the UK, it was the interfaith work of community leaders which captured the press attention and turned the mood of the country.

While these kind of responses from faith leaders are crucial, it would be a huge mistake to think that interfaith encounters should be limited to clergy and community leaders alone. When initiatives extend beyond the clergy to their congregants, the potential for creating an increased sense of positivity and understanding between those of all faiths and of none is huge.

HOPE not hate’s national More In Common campaign was launched this summer in response to the murder of Jo Cox and to the negativity surrounding some of the EU Referendum campaigning. In hundreds of events around the country, ranging from small groups meeting up to share a cup of tea through to city-wide food festivals and fun days, the More In Common campaign addresses a national feeling that people want to connect across community boundaries. We are beyond the point when interfaith just meant opening the doors to the local church, mosque or synagogue for an Open Day. Nowadays, interfaith provides opportunities for organic local connections to be made which can only strengthen our communities.

 Posted: 16 Nov 2016 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments