In spite of suggestions that the world would grow out of religion as people became more ‘modern’ and more ‘rational’ faith shows no signs of fading away getting on for twenty years into the 21st century. We only have to look at the news on TV to realise that faith is still alive and kicking. Religious faith either sits in the background or stands front and centre in many big national and international news stories. From evangelical Christians and the US election, or Pope Francis giving homeless Italians a VIP spot in a recent Mass at the Vatican to Jewish leaders in the US calling on all Jewish-Americans to register as Muslims in order to frustrate Donald Trump’s plans for a ‘register’ of Muslim-Americans – Faith is still big news. It can be a cause of violence, intolerance and mistrust but it can also be the source of social justice, reconciliation and social inclusion….
The Faith & Peaceful Relations Forum is an initiative that springs from Chris Shannahan’s work as part of the Faith & Peaceful Relations research group at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations. The Forum provides a space where people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, perspectives and faith traditions can step back from the rush of one deadline after another to reflect together on their experience of the relationship between faith and conflict, faith and peacebuilding, faith and discrimination, faith and inclusion and faith and social justice.
The Forum begins with our experience as people living, working, studying, worshipping in the city of Coventry. It is not primarily a social action committee but is committed to enabling action. It is not primarily an interfaith network but is committed to fostering and resourcing dialogue. It is not an academic society but is committed to analysing complex issues and questions in order to forge greater and more holistic understanding. We appear to live increasingly in our own bubbles, meeting and talking with only the people who share our beliefs or views of the world. The Forum is intended to be a space where we can burst the bubble and listen to and learn from each other. This network of practitioners and academics provides a space of encounter, building bridges between faith and community groups, academics and politicians – informing practice and earthing research.
The Forum meets three times a year [Spring, Summer and Autumn] to explore a particular aspect of the relationship between faith and peaceful social relations. A practitioner, a social scientist and a theologian reflect on the theme, raising questions for us to explore in small groups and then in a larger conversation. Each meeting ends with a call to action: What can we do in response to the ideas that the speakers have shared with and the insights that have emerged from our shared conversation….
Themes explored at recent Forum meetings include –
- May 2016 – ‘Building a Peaceful City’
- September 2016 – ‘Strangers No More – Building Peace in a Diverse Society’
- March 2017 – ‘Swords into Ploughshares? Religion, Peace and Violence’
- June 2017 – ‘Life on the Breadline: Faith, Poverty & Politics in the 21st Century City’
- October 2017 – ‘Religion and Domestic Abuse’
You can also link in with the Forum by going to the Faith & Peaceful Relations Forum Facebook Page [click ‘like’ if you like what you see!]