Syria is the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 4 million people have fled Syria since 2011 and almost 9 million people are predicted to be internally displaced in 2016. Responses from the international community to address this crisis have fallen short. However, faith communities and faith-based organisations have increasingly come together to engage in humanitarian work to help alleviate this suffering.
Last month, the LSE Faith Centre hosted a panel discussion “Am I My Brother’s Keeper? Faith Communities Responding to the Syrian Refugee Crisis”. This event highlighted the responsibility of faith communities to participate in humanitarian activities and introduced the audience to some of the initiatives already in place to address the Syrian refugee crisis. We were honoured by the participation of Dr Georgette Bennett, founder of the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA); Mr. Shadi Martini, Senior Syria Advisor of the MFA and Syrian refugee from Aleppo; and Mrs. Angela Afzal, Refugee Response Coordinator for Capital Mass (a joint initiative of the Diocese of London and Church Urban Fund). The discussion was chaired by Revd Canon Dr James Walters, Chaplain and Senior Lecturer of the LSE. Continue reading
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.
The 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). Continue reading
LSE 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
Bashir 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
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
“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.
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.
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 broadcasts 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 need 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
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.
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
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.
“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
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).
“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