The work of the Bristol Multi-Faith Forum

Our latest Annual Report can be read here, giving news about our recent work. Our latest news magazine was published in December 2016. It is our Winter News Magazine and gives an idea of the work we have been involved with over the past few months. Read it here.

In the last year the life of the Bristol Multi-Faith has provided a voice and vehicle for multi-faith dialogue  Much of this has to do with the work we have accomplished on building faith awareness: both internally and also in the wider world. For those who are active in the multi-faith environment, it can be surprising to realise that there are those for whom working with any faith can be a challenge. Similarly, we can fail to acknowledge that, for people active within a particular faith tradition, working with representatives and practitioners of other faiths is either necessary or possible. That however, is one important feature of the Bristol Multi-Faith Forum: to build bridges, and also to cross them.

We have been actively engaged this past year with local government in the city through our work with the city council’s community cohesion strategy, and also have been working at the grassroots, exploring the ways in which faith communities can engage with the big issues of our society. We have been public in advocating that there is still much to do to build greater community cohesion, but have also been looking for ways to ensure that faith communities can help to bring it about. This is one of the most important, and often unrecognised aspects of multi-faith work, and there are examples of how this work has been achieved in our annual report.

 

Please read our Manifesto for change: (for a Pdf copy see here)

The Bristol Multi-Faith Forum:

  • Gives a voice for people of faith in Bristol
  • Serve as a Forum for Bristol’s faith communities to enter into dialogue with each other and with relevant organisations of the statutory, private and voluntary sectors.
  • Develops and nurtures leadership and partnership working within Bristol’s faith communities, in order to do the above and also to be a platform for focus on commonalities and shared objectives amongst the faiths.

The Forum’s main purpose is to support Bristol’s faith communities in working together and thus building fruitful and constructive relationships with each other, based on mutual respect. Bristol’s faith communities share the common concerns of all Bristol’s citizens, feeling a part of their local community, having secure accommodation, sufficient income and feeling safe in the community.

The Bristol Multi-Faith Forum (BMFF) has seen some progress on the recognition of the contribution that faith communities make to the community  life of the city of Bristol.  However, much remains to be done.  The table below details the recognition by public bodies that too many people from faith communities and BME groups do not feel part of the city.  They lack knowledge of health services and may feel a unsafe in the city and have experienced prejudice and discrimination.

The take up of health services, mental health services and other support services is still subject to under representation form the communities the BMFF is set up to support. Furthermore, the resources and social value that faith communities provides in Bristol is still not fully recognized or utilized by other service providers.

This manifesto is a public statement of what the Forum sets out to do and what some of its main priorities are, within its available resources.  We will continue to regularly review this document to ensure agreement on what these priorities should be.  The Forum continues to welcome the views of Bristol’s faith communities on this manifesto and welcomes participation in working together and with other agencies and concerned citizens to meet some of these needs community needs and share our vision of what a healthier, vibrant and harmonious city could look like.  One that values the contribution and richness brought to it by all of its communities.

 

The issue identified by BMFF Supporting data/evidence The actions to be taken by BMFF (and others) What will change as a result and when (timescale)
1. The importance of faith groups working together on issues of common concern and their mutual support for each other. Examples of demonstrations by extremist groups in Bristol, the first of their kind in recent memory.  Actions against local mosques designed to give offence to the Muslim community (see action taken column for instances and joint action supported by the Forum).

 

 

Initiating public events, conferences//seminars and exhibitions which enable faith group to work together e.g. Diverse Doors Open Day – where many faith communities invite members of the public to their worship places.

 

Recent examples of actions initialed or supported by the Forum demonstrate how the Forum will continue to work in partnership to stand against prejudice and discrimination in the city.

 

In January 2016 the Totterdown Mosque was subject to offensive actions i.e. leaving bacon sandwiches outside the building (knowing that pork is forbidden to Muslims), over 200 people came to show their support for the mosque and its users.  Many of them were form other faith communities and local residents.

 

The Forum has in2012 and 2015 organized peace walks to show that Bristol’s faith communities stand together and that extremist demonstrations have no part of life in the city.  These both featured as the main items on the local news programmers

Increased attendances at Diverse Doors Open day faith venues.

 

An increasing realization that faith communities stand together whenever prejudice rears its head.

More publicity in the media on instances of faith groups working together.

 

A more positive portrayal of faith groups contribution to communityl ife in Bristol and an increasing recognition of the value they give to city life within public, bodies, community organisations and individuals in Bristol

 

2. The contribution of faith communities to community life and reducing social isolation in particular is not fully understood or appreciated. Members of Bristol’s minority faith groups may be particularly vulnerable to social isolation – particularly refugees and migrants who may have already suffered persecution because of their faith.. The faith communities surveyed provide Bristol with:

• 94 community halls and rooms.

• The equivalent of between 350 and 400 full time staff, paid or as volunteers, whose value to community is over £6 million a year.

• This benefits between 10,000 and 15,000 people. (Bristol Faith Audit, 2011).

 

‘Social isolation is an issue for a range of other demographic groups’ …. (including) ‘black minority ethnic and recent migrant communities’.

 

‘Recent migrant communities can also experience social isolation, both individually and collectively, due to language difficulties or lack of social support networks, or even just due to lack of knowledge about what support is available. Over the last decade, the population of Bristol has become increasingly diverse and some local communities have changed significantly’.

Social Isolation – initial findings (October 2013)

 

The BMFF will work with Bristol City Council to produce a database of social support resources provided by faith groups in Bristol.

 

 

The Forum will contribute to keeping this database up to date annually, by maintaining the accuracy of information from minority faith groups in the city.

 

The Forum will continue to promote the virtues of partnership working and improve the knowledge of faith communities who do not know

of existing support available from both Voluntary and Public

sector, such as help with fund raising. This will be done through the production of a regular ebulletin giving a digest of relevant information, training and funding resources. Work with such as Voscur and Volunteering

Bristol to provide targeted training for faith communities..

 

 

 

An initial database will be produced by April 2016 and information from minority faith groups will be updated annually by the BMFF. Regularly.

 

The Forum will liaise with other partners in ensuring information on resources provided by Christian faith groups is also update at least annually.

 

Strategic bodies including Bristol City Council and public health services ensure that faith representatives are

encouraged and supported in any strategic

development in the city that builds on both

social and physical capital.

 

Faith communities providing community support are better connected to the work of other service providers and working in closer partnership with them where appropriate. (2015-7)

3. Faith communities are not connected enough to maintain good physical and emotional health and a feeling of wellbeing for the most vulnerable members of their community (1) ‘It is recognised that health inequalities is not just about a person’s ‘post code.’ They also exist between genders, ethnicities and abilities, where different health outcomes and experiences of services can lead to developing preventable diseases, shorter life spans and affect mental health. This is especially present in our inner city where levels of high deprivation also exist and we need to provide support which is also respectful of our diverse, ethnic communities.

 

‘Bristol residents born outside the UK 11 increased from 8% to 15% in the last decade, (which is) relevant to changing health needs, adapting services to cultural requirements & communicating best routes to access appropriate health services’. (Bristol health and wellbeing strategy 2013)

 

‘According to the Bristol Quality of Life survey, in 2010: analysis by equalities groups indicates a slightly lower than average happiness rating for people from black and minority ethnic groups. However, analysis by equalities groups indicates a considerably lower than average life satisfaction rating from Black and minority ethnic groups (65%), those living in deprived areas (67%), people of Muslim faith(57%)’.(Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) 2014)

The BMFF will build on the successful work being done in partnership with public health services and the West of England blood and organ donation service, to increase the numbers of blood and organ donors amongst Bristol’s BAME population.

 

The next priority for improving the knowledge and take up of support services will be in the field of mental health.

Increased knowledge take up of mental health services with in BAME communities in Bristol

 

Information events and ‘road shows’ with service providers to be organized regularly from 2016-18.

4. Faith communities are still experiencing deprivation which reinforces feelings of  prejudice and discrimination and not feel part of the life of the city. Wards where majority of the BME population are concentrated.: Ashley, Easton, Lawrence Hill and Eastville, The report shows Lawrence Hill ward is one of the wards suffering most from multiple deprivation. Eastville has some of the areas ‘new’ to the list of the areas suffering from multiple deprivation. (Deprivation in Bristol (2015) – Briefing note, Bristol City Council).

 

‘Of respondents to this question, fear of crime is greater amongst Muslim, LGBT, BME and disabled respondents as well as those living within priority neighbourhoods. Further work by the partnership to understand whether any disproportionate victimisation is occurring which may be linked to fear of crime within wards could help to identify opportunities for partnership interventions.

 

About a fifth of disabled people, people of Muslim faith and BME people report being a victim of discrimination or harassment.’ (Bristol Crime and Disorder  – Safer Bristol Partnership , January 2015).

 

‘BME individuals are at a proportionally higher risk of experiencing robbery, serious violence against the person, night time economy-related crime and hate crime in particular’. (Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Needs Assessment 2014)

The BMFF will work strategically with partners like Building the Bridge and SARI to increase awareness of the discrimination and prejudice suffered by faith communities in Bristol.

 

The Forum will continue to organise events to raise the profile of the need of people form faith communities e.g. on mental health issues, the needs of older people.

Partnership working and networking by Council, Police and health services with organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers. In particular partners will be working to alleviate the negative impact of the media coverage on the arrival asylum seekers and refugees on the city and the resulting effects on the incidences of prejudice and discrimination. (2015 onwards)

 

Increased reporting of faith related hate crime.

(2016-18).

 

Demonstrable progress on the targets set by the The Bristol Manifesto for Race Equality (2014), particularly those relating to education and employment.(2015-17).

 

5. Young people A report from Building the Bridge highlighted the importance of ‘psycho-social benefits arising from having access to appropriate cultural and religious facilities within local areas’.50 Nevertheless, the study also found that there was a lack of facilities for young people, especially young Muslim women.

 

(Building the Bridge  – Muslim community engagement in Bristol (2014)

 

The Bristol Faith Audit (2011) produced by Forward Maisokwadzo on behalf of the BMFF highlighted the following issues and concerns about he role of young people in faith communities:

 

Attracting and maintaining volunteers

– especially young ones – has been

identified as a key problem by many

groups – maybe a scheme to encourage more volunteering, involvement (possibility of some form of

mentoring for young/unemployed people?).

 

Challenges for faith communities are worsened by the dwindling numbers of their membership, with faith groups failing to attract the younger generation. As a result not enough resources are contributed by members to help sustain the organisations – for example, in maintaining their buildings which are generally old and have high maintenance and heating costs.

 

There is a failure of some groups to listen to women and young people.

 

 

The Forum will organize a general meeting on the needs of young people in faith communities in the 2016/17 financial year, with follow up meetings if required. The BMFF will work to support a group or groups  of young people from faith communities supported by the Forum, to organize activities for young people and a space to exchange views – to be established by April 2017.
6. Membership The BMFF took the decision some years ago not to try and establish a formal membership structure.  Other similar forums in other parts of the country had experienced difficulties, with different groups saying they represented their community and objecting/questioning the right of others to be there.  So the BMFF decided on an inclusive structure.  ‘Membership is:

open to those who can reasonably be described as a member of a recognised faith community, who have an interest in community issues in the Bristol area.  This includes the nine religious faiths recognised by Inter-faith UK, and may include any faith group in the area as agreed by the Steering Group.

Members will:

  • Live, work or worship within the Bristol area
  • Be interested in promoting the objects of the Forum
  • Have attended two open Forum meetings
  • Sign and return the membership form

Agree to abide by the code of conduct

 

The benefits of membership will include the right to:

  • Participate in determining the strategic direction of the Forum
  • Vote at meetings of the Forum
  • Elect the Steering Group and the Chair
  • Stand for election to the Steering Group and the Chair

 

 

 

 

The Forum will continue to review these criteria and confirm them at each AGM.

 

Sources of data/evidence base for the above.

Health and wellbeing

Bristol health and wellbeing strategy 2013 –https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/34772/HW%20Strategy%20Document_2013_web.pdf/9dcfd365-4f01-46be-aaf3-0874d75c7c33

Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) 2014  https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/34744/Joint+Strategic+Needs+Assessment+%28JSNA%29+2014+update+summary/2f5fcd40-3918-4773-9169-e43b68441827

Social isolation

Bristol Faith Audit, 2011)

Social Isolation – initial findings (October 2013) http://www.bristolageingbetter.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Social-isolation-initial-findings-report-Oct-13_0.pdf

Experiencing deprivation and feelings of  being subject to prejudice and discrimination

Deprivation in Bristol (2015) – Briefing note, Bristol City Council.

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/0/Briefing+Note+-+Deprivation+in+Bristol+2015/3022e8fa-46c0-48d8-8f0f-6586b3cccf4f

Bristol Crime and Disorder  – Safer Bristol Partnership (January 2015) https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/35136/Crime+%26+Disorder+Strategic+Assessment+Jan+2012.pdf/b56afc10-d3fb-49d4-b0c1-9f3521bae2ac

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Needs Assessment 2014

http://www.avonandsomerset-pcc.gov.uk/Document-Library/Police-and-Crime-Plan/ASPCNA-October-2014.pdf

The Bristol Manifesto for Race Equality (2014)

http://www.bristolbmevoice.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Manifesto-for-Race-Equality-13Jan2015.pdf

Young people

Building the Bridge  – Muslim community engagement in Bristol (2014)

http://www.publicspirit.org.uk/assets/Building-the-Bridge-Report-2014.pdf

Bristol Multi-Faith Forum  – Bristol Faith Audit (2011) – contact us for a PDF copy of the report.