The work of the Bristol Multi-Faith Forum
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 to the people of faiths 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, 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 in 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 unsafe in the city and have experienced prejudice and discrimination.
The take-up of health services, mental health services, and other support services are still subject to under-representation from the communities the BMFF is set up to support. Furthermore, the resources and social value that faith communities provide in Bristol are 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 offense 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 groups 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 from 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 attendance 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 community life in Bristol and 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 the 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 the Voluntary and Public
sectors, such as help with fundraising. This will be done through the production of a regular e-bulletin 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 are not just about a person’s ‘postcode.’ 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 the support that 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 within BAME communities in Bristol
Information events and ‘roadshows’ 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 the 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 deprivations. Eastville has some of the areas ‘new’ to the list of the areas suffering from multiple deprivations. (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 from 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 of asylum seekers and refugees in the city and the resulting effects on the incidences of prejudice and discrimination. (2015 onwards)
Increased reporting of faith-related hate crime.
Demonstrable progress on the targets set by 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 the role of young people in faith communities:
Attracting and maintaining volunteers
– especially young ones – has been
identified as a key problem by many
groups – may be 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.
Agree to abide by the code of conduct
The benefits of membership will include the right to:
|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
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.
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
The Bristol Manifesto for Race Equality (2014)
Building the Bridge – Muslim community engagement in Bristol (2014)
Bristol Multi-Faith Forum – Bristol Faith Audit (2011) – contact us for a PDF copy of the report.