Mar 24 2016

Meaningful Mondays: Faith & Leadership 2016

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On March 7th Craig Calhoun, Director of LSE, presented the 25 Faith & Leadership 2016 participants with their graduation certificates.

Faith & Leadership is an extracurricular programme that aims to deepen student’s understanding of different religions, develop their leadership skills and enhance their potential as young world leaders.

Ruhana Ali SessionThe 2016 programme, which was over-subscribed 3 places to 1, received hugely positive feedback from participants and contributors, and has paved the way for its continuation in forthcoming years.

“Challenging”, “Transformative”, “Rewarding” are three words used to summarise the experience of the Faith & Leadership programme.

The first part of the course is dedicated to improving participants’ religious literacy. Each week guest speakers from different religious backgrounds are asked to expound the imagination of their particular faith. What is the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist imagination? A dynamic series of discussions were led by Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand (Director of JHub), the Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres (Bishop of London), Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad (University of Cambridge), Dr Desmond Biddulph (President of the Buddhist Society) and Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar (University of Wolverhampton).

The second part of the programme comprised leadership formation courses and training in conflict resolution. Participants were taken on a residential to The Royal Foundation of St Katharine’s to undergo an intensive programme of workshops and activities. LivelyGroup2 panel discussions took place between Jasvir Singh (Chair of the City Sikhs Network and Foundation) and Barbara Ridpath (Director of the St Paul’s Institute), and also Stephen Timms MP (Labour Party Faith Envoy), Michael Binyon (Leader writer for The Times) and Elizabeth Oldfield (Director of Theos). Inspirational sessions on leadership formation were led by Ruhana Ali (CEO of Nasiha Consulting Ltd) and Krish Raval (Director of Faith in Leadership). And a challenging and exceptional final workshop on conflict resolution was directed by Simon Keyes (Fellow at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace).

Here’s what two participants had to write about their experience on the LSE Faith Centre’s Faith & Leadership programme.

Reflecting on the programme overall:

The Faith & Leadership Certificate programme at LSE allowed me to engage with a variety of religious and political leaders about the role of religion in the modern European context. These discussions were dynamic and were driven by a group of deeply passionate and inquisitive peers seeking to bridge pressing societal issues with informed solutions. My favorite session, which focused on conflict resolution and negotiation practices, taught me how to analyze the complexity of group disputes and build transformative discourse. I leave the program having networked with influential organizations across the UK and having developed a clearer context for a career in social change.(Leslie Andrews)

Thinking specifically about building an understanding of religious imaginations as part of religious literacy:

I truly learned a ton from the LSE Faith & Leadership programme and I am grateful that I was able to meet such wonderful people. One conversation that will stick with me is the discussion we had about the word “Jew”. In one of our sessions, we were asked to say what first comes to mind when we hear the word “Jew”. Mazel tov, Einstein, kosher foods, holocaust, wealthy… the list went on. It was fascinating and refreshing to see how different people perceived the same word (and the same community). It was a great reminder to stay open-minded and to always treat others well in our interfaith world. (Vandad Pourbahrami)

We are immensely grateful to David and Kitty Beeken for supporting this programme.

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie

Mar 16 2016

LSE Holocaust Memorial Commemoration

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HolocaustMemorialCommem2016LSE Faith Centre organized the Holocaust Memorial Commemoration on Tuesday 26th January in the Shaw Library. The theme of this year’s Commemoration is ‘Don’t Stand By’. The Holocaust is constituted of millions of personal tragedies and stories of suffering and loss. The historical undeniability of the Holocaust is borne out in how it has shaped our institutions in concrete ways that we may take for granted. This includes the LSE which played an extraordinary role of hospitality to refugees from the Holocaust (at a time when antisemitism was common in England too) and benefited immensely from their expertise, including that of the great Austrian Jewish philosopher Karl Popper. This need not have been so and former Director Ralf Dahrendorf remarked:

It is a comment on the LSE that those who came were made to feel at home, and that those who received them on the whole felt at ease with the newcomers.

At this year’s Holocaust Memorial Commemoration we were grateful for contributions from the LSE Choir, Professor Janet Hartley, Rebecca Hardie (Faith Centre Coordinator), Bryn Laxton-Coglon (LSE LGBT Officer) and Joe Grabiner (LSE Politics and Philosophy Student). Below Joe Grabiner transcribes his honest and moving story of what the Holocaust Memorial means to him and his family.

“Thank you. Talking about genocide, and thinking about the lost lives of many millions of innocent people is not an altogether obvious or easy way to spend a Tuesday afternoon. So thank you for being here. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie

Mar 8 2016

Interfaith Residential: Reflections on the Faith & Leadership Programme

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F&LlogoBashir Ali, an LSE undergraduate student of Anthropology, talks about his experience on the LSE Faith & Leadership Residential. Twenty five participants gathered together at The Royal Foundation of St Katherine’s for a full programme of panel discussions, leadership workshops, talks, meditation and shared meals.

Just over a week ago, as a participant on the LSE Faith & Leadership programme, I was fortunate enough to join over 20 other students, of varying faiths and none, for a weekend residential at The Royal Foundation of St. Katherine’s – an establishment founded in the 12th Century by Queen Matilda to act ‘as a centre for worship, hospitality and service’.

Okay, I say residential, and whilst that conjures up images of cottages and lakes, we could still see Canary Wharf. But that in itself made it the whole experience quite surreal; it was a hub of spiritual solace in the middle of the city. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie

Mar 2 2016

Diwali: An Interfaith Experience

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Following its considerable success last year, the Faith Centre re-ran the Interfaith Buddies scheme to help foster constructive encounters and engagements between LSE students of different faiths and belief systems in the context of small discussion groups. Here Claire Moll, an LSE Postgraduate Student of Anthroplogy, remembers an outing with her Interfaith Buddies Group to experience a Diwali celebration in Trafalgar Square.


“In the beginning of October, after a wonderful hour of tea and conversation with my Interfaith Buddies group, we made our way towards Trafalgar Square, which that particular day was filled with lively music, smells of spicy curries, and about a thousand people. All of those people had gathered in celebration of the Hindu, Jain, and Sikh holiday, Diwali. Diwali is celebrated during the new moon that falls in either October or November. It is a day where families of those faith traditions gather to renew their commitment to familial values and to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.

That afternoon in Trafalgar Square, the excitement was pulsating through the crowds. We looked on as talented dancers took over the grand stage performing with so much energy and grace beautiful traditional dances. It truly was a sensory overload, which, from personal experience in the Subcontinent, was pretty representative of the culture being celebrated. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie

Feb 5 2016

Holy Land Trip 2016

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“I immediately realised that mine was just one narrative; a very linear one at that. And in order to really understand the conflict it was necessary to discard all caricatures and prejudices that I was coming with, to live and listen in the moment, to try to understand on the most basic of human levels what people longed for in their hearts, what parents prayed for their children and only then did I appreciate how relatable everybody’s struggles were to one another.” (Male, Muslim)

In January of this year the Faith Centre took a group of 18 LSE students of different religions and none to Israel/Palestine for just over a week.IMG_2285

Our aim was to learn more about the complexities of the Israel/Palestine conflict, especially its religious dimensions, which are often neglected in political scientific analysis. We also wanted to carefully consider how our own religious commitments, drawn into dialogue with those of different traditions, may be a resource for peacemaking and conflict resolution in the future.

Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie

Dec 22 2015

Songs of Praise: Mitzvah Day Cooking

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Soozy Nesom, LSE Undergraduate Student, reviews her experience being filmed by Songs of Praise on an interfaith baking workshop.

“Over the past 50 years, Sunday late afternoon British TV has aired Songs of Praise. This show broSongs of Praise2adcasts contemporary religious events while a congregation sings hymns or more contemporary worship songs. On Sunday 22nd November, a team of four Christian students from the LSE, along with the Revd. Dr. James Walters participated in interfaith week on the show. We engaged in inter-faith dialogue whilst cooking food for a local homeless shelter.

On Thursday of reading week, we headed to the new JW3 center on Finchley road to participate in the Jewish community’s Mitzvah day. This day happens every year, when a range of volunteers undertake projects for those in needSongs of Praise in their local community. As part of this event they invited us, as Christians, to talk about our faiths whilst cooking faiths from both religions. This is because in all faiths, food represents an important symbol of hospitality. We cooked apple strudel (Jewish dish) mince pies (Christian dish), and a vegetable soup for a local homeless center at Kings Cross Methodist church. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie

Dec 21 2015

Female Leadership: An Interfaith Panel

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Janis Wong, President of LSE Women Leaders of Tomorrow Society, offers her views on the Women’s Interfaith Panel discussion about Religion and Female Leadership, hosted by the LSE Faith Centre as part of Interfaith Week.

Female Leadership Panel

From Left to Right: Sana Musharraf, Fabiana Barticioti, Nava Ashraf, Rebecca Hardie, Lindsay Simmonds, Mandy Ford, Navpreet Atwal.

Last week, as part of LSESU Interfaith Week, the LSESU Jewish Society, in association with LSESU Women Leaders of Tomorrow Society, organised a Women’s Interfaith Panel. Exploring what gender and faith meant to them, the speakers provided a great amount of insight not only in regards to their personal relationship with faith, but also how their beliefs provide the foundation to the work which they do.

From an academic perspective, Lindsay Simmonds, a graduate of the LSJS Susi Bradfield Women Educators’ Fellowships and PhD candidate at the LSE, discussed her work with the Cambridge Co-Exist Leadership Programme. Having explored a wide range of religions during her upbringing, much of her work today focuses on promoting respectful, deep and long-lasting friendship and collegiality between religious leaders, regardless of their faith community. Starting from the bottom-up, Lindsay emphasised the importance of education to encourage acceptance and understanding the ever-evolving meaning of individual faiths. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie

Dec 11 2015

How I Pray: Primary School Interfaith Assemblies

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As part of Interfaith Week, The Faith Centre brought LSE students of different faiths together to give Primary School Assemblies. They each showed an item that helps them to pray and reflected upon how their beliefs encourage them to respond to challenges and conflicts in the world today. George Fattal, an undergraduate Government student at LSE, shares his experience of presenting in assemblies.

Interfaith Blog

“As a first year, I had experience of using the Faith Centre at LSE to help me practice my faith. However, until this week I had never used it to help give back to the local community.

On Tuesday, three of us from different faiths went to a primary school in King’s Cross. As well as myself (a member of the Jewish Society) there was a member of the Muslim society and the Protestant Society. Unlike many interfaith activities that I had participated in before the aim was not to enrich our own understanding but to help spread the importance of interfaith activities to others. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie

Dec 9 2015

PostCapitalism: Envisaging A Shared Future

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The Faith Centre took a group of LSE students to hear Paul Mason, Economics Editor for Channel 4 News, discuss his new book “PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future” at St Paul’s Institute. 

Anton Jarrod, LSE postgraduate student in Social Policy, shares his thoughts on a panel discussion between Paul Mason, Ann Pettifor (Director of Policy Research in Macroeconomics) and Phillip Blond (Director of ResPublica), chaired by Elizabeth Oldfield (Director of Theos).

Paul Mason Talking

“What will come after capitalism? Such a brave person, the one who would attempt to answer it. There are, I think, so many views about it and certainly here at LSE you hear quite a few of them and from across the political spectrum.

So I was glad to get a ticket through the Faith Centre to attend a talk on this subject led by Paul Mason under the dome of St Paul’s cathedral, with contributions from Ann Pettifor, Phillip Blond and Elizabeth Oldfield. In a place that has been witness to many kinds of change over many centuries, and has seen political ideologies come and go, it was interesting to consider here what shape future changes to western capitalism could consist of. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie

Dec 8 2015

The Future of the Faith Reviewed

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David Shaw, a Postgraduate Student of LSE, reviews a dialogue between Charles Taylor and Craig Calhoun on The Future of Faith, chaired by Rev James Walters. 

Charles Taylor is a world renowned thinker and prolific writer on the philosophy and sociology of religion, and so it was no surprise that the Faith Centre was completely full for this event which saw him in conversation with LSE Director Craig Calhoun, who has also published on the subject of secularism.

The discussion was moderatedCharles Taylor by Rev James Walters, the Centre’s Chaplain, who opened proceedings by noting that in LSE’s 120-year history, it was only in the past few years that the Faith Centre was established, and asking Taylor what he thought that fact suggested about the place of faith today. He responded that we live in an era in which, rather than being organised around any single faith, individuals and communities pursue, or constantly seek, their own directions. Much of the remaining conversation revolved around defining, categorising, and explaining this condition, and around the questions that he associated with this state of affairs: what kind of coexistence does a diverse world demand, and what new ways of living does it stimulate? Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Rebecca Hardie