Interfaith Week 2020: Round-up

2020 National Interfaith Week

Birmingham Programme

Birmingham Council of Faiths (BCF) – Footsteps’ parent charity – again coordinated Birmingham’s contribution to National Interfaith Week 2020. The week aims to strengthen interfaith relations and to increase understanding and awareness between faith communities and with those with non-religious beliefs.  The Covid-19 Pandemic presented particular challenges and most events were held on line.

Footsteps’ contributions

Tread Lightly on this Earth – a celebration of community initiatives contributing to a circular economy. Footsteps’ fifth Annual Conference was held online, exploring the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle). We considered some of the issues of inequality that the pandemic has highlighted, and celebrated local contributions to the circular economy that are helping to address these.

Footsteps also contributed to a number of other events:

Connecting Communities Unity FM 93.5 radio programme – Pete Doubtfire (Footsteps) joined a discussion on Unity FM about Interfaith Week, with Rabiyah Latif (Near Neighbours) and Ashley Beck (National Interfaith Network).  The programme explored the benefits and challenges of interfaith working, including as an approach to climate action and inequality in Birmingham.

Towards a better understanding of Judaism and Quakerism in Birmingham – Footsteps secretary, Chris Martin, spoke about the way in which Quakers see the climate and environmental crisis as a justice issue and how Quakers support and work with Footsteps and others on shared screens.   Rabbi Margaret Jacobi also explained how the Birmingham Progressive Synagogues climate works with Footsteps

Countdown to the Glasgow UN climate summit 2021: Faith voices from Birmingham – held jointly with Faith for the Climate (FFTC) exploring how Birmingham can send a message to COP 26. The event strengthened Footsteps’ links with this national network based in London.

All four events were well supported and as well as highlighting faith communities’ contributions to tackling the climate and ecological crisis we face, also provided opportunities to hear the voices of young people. 

Whilst online events do not have the same potential to build face-to-face relationships between faith communities, they do provide other opportunities.  Some participants would not have been able to attend a face-to-face gathering.  Also, Footsteps was able to involve a wider range of speakers. 

Videos and Presentations

These are are some of the key contributions from the week:

Dr Malcom Dick, social and industrial historian, interviewed by two young climate activists on the importance of understanding history to establishing priorities for climate justice:

Shahin Ashraf MBE, Head of Global Advocacy, Islamic Relief Worldwide and Solihull Council Member, presentation: ‘What is COP26 and why should people of faith care about it?’

Connecting Communities – discussion of Interfaith Week on Unity FM:

Chris MartinClimate Justice: a Quaker View sharing how in his view, climate justice links with Quaker Testimonies, the natural world and interfaith work.

An introduction to the Circular Economy (a video created by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation):

Prubhjyot Singh, Eco Sikh and Footsteps, presentation: Sikh perspectives on the Circular Economy and the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Toqueer Ahmed Quyyam, Muslim environmental campaigner describing the issues currently facing Birmingham’s Kashmiri and other BAME communities, and identifying the action needed:

Shenaz Sajan and Zahra Esmail from Clifton Road Mosque considering ‘mindful consumption’ and describing the simple steps we can all take to reduce our impact and ‘tread more lightly’ on the world.

John Newson, energy and waste campaigner at Birmingham Friends of the Earth with tips on the 3Rs and composting / growing you own at home:

Change Kitchen explaining how they have used surplus food to help #FeedBrum during the pandemic and beyond (in a video created by Jai Jagat UK):

Refuse, Rethink, Recycle – a campaign and petition supported by Footsteps and others, calling on Birmingham City Council to make a plan to replace incineration with better waste options:

Selected highlights of some of the above videos were edited into a 20 minute centrepiece for the Tread Lightly conference.

Giles Goddard, Faith for the Climate chair, concluded Tread Lightly with an overview of the climate and ecological crisis that we are facing. 

Key Points

Key points for action that emerged from the Tread Lightly conference and other events included:

  • Local, national and international action are interconnected & should aim to be complementary.
  • There are groups doing great work on inequality and sustainability locally; and interesting thinkers looking at the big economic and structural picture – how can we bring these together?
  • Our future will involve learning from the best of the past about community and simple living, combined with thoughtful use of new technology and innovation.
  • Working with different faiths (and other people with strong values) is powerful, but it takes an investment of time and effort to build those relationships Importance of hearing the voices of young people.

Useful links shared by participants

  • Active Well Being – Share Shack – welcoming local hubs where you can borrow items for free
  • Let’s Feed Brum is the umbrella organisation bringing together organisations providing food (such as Change Kitchen)
  • Community growing projects: Edible Brum (led by ecobirmingham) for tips on getting involved.
  • Grand Union art gallery’s Growing Project: the gallery works with a local homeless hostel in Digbeth, and has transformed their garden space.
  • The Clean Kilo in Bournville & Digbeth, sells food with no packaging, bring your own containers.
  • Moseley Exchange Recycle Point – collection for ‘hard to recycle’ items such as crisp packets, toothpaste tubes and bread wrappers.
  • Birmingham Litter Pickers Facebook group.
  • ‘Entangled Life’ by Merlin Sheldrake recommended as a good way to understand how fungi provide natural and organic compost recycling.
  • Quakers hold a silent climate change vigil every Wednesday from 1:15 to 1:30 outside St Phillips Cathedral in Birmingham City centre. With current restriction this is a one-household vigil, but we hope to be able to welcome others, of all faiths to join us soon. Aiming to raise awareness of passers-by to the importance of Climate Change.

Organisations in need of funding at this difficult time

Fundraising campaigns highlighted by participants:

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