Multi/Inter Faith Network

Models & Ideas

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Models for a Faith Network

There are several forms a Faith Network may take, including:

1. Single work group covering people of all religious backgrounds with no groups permitted for individual faiths.
If the board is trying to adopt this model, it may meet the first of the objectives listed above, but is unlikely to deliver on 2 or 3 without the opportunity for religious groups to have meetings for their own faith group. The board may not have a good understanding of faith themselves. Some people think all religions are substantially the same and only superficially different, whereas in fact they are superficially the same and substantially different. You may want, politely, to explain to the board that, although individuals of a variety of faiths can be good friends and can work together for common purposes (such as reviewing company policies to avoid unintentional discrimination), they each have distinct beliefs that are which prevent combined worship. It is therefore appropriate for each of them to have the opportunity to organise their own faith groups to serve their members.

2. Work group representing people of all faiths, with autonomous groups to cover individual faiths (most commonly Christian and Muslim, although others may also exist). This is a better arrangement. A slight variant may be that the individual faith groups are subject to the Multi-Faith Committee. Other organisations allow faith groups to hold their own meetings without any co-ordination, which is OK, but isn’t a multi-faith approach. 


What should the Faith Network do?

This will be dependent to some extent on the objectives set by the board, but you may want to consider the following:

1. Define Terms of Reference
  • What are your objectives?
  • What is the scope of the authority?
  • Who is the committee accountable to, and how is this managed?
  • What committee positions will there be?
  • How will elections be held and how often?
  • How often will the committee meet?
 
2. Building a support base

The status of the group will be dependent to a large extent on how many people are involved.
 

3. Review company policies and culture

To assist the company in meeting the requirements and spirit of the Equality Act, consider whether there is any discrimination in the company, either deliberate or unintentional. If you have a large company, bear in mind that the practices in HQ may be quite different in smaller work units, so these should not be forgotten.

Deliberate discrimination may include:

  • Unfair opportunities or unequal pay for people of different religious groups, or with names that represent certain religions
  • Unreasonable restrictions in fulfilling religious obligations, such as attending Friday prayers, Sunday services, or religious festivals, such as Ramadan
  • Unreasonable restrictions on wearing religious symbols or dress (e.g. cross, turban, hijab)
  • Mocking of individuals’ religions
  • People of certain faiths not being invited to social events


Unintentional discrimination may include:
Social events involving activities that people of certain faiths may feel uncomfortable being involved in, for instance:

  • After work drinks where everyone is expected to drink alcohol
  • Going out for a meal where there are no suitable options for those who have to eat halal or kosher meat   


You may consider proposing strategies to cover specific provisions such as:

  • Prayer rooms
  • Supporting religious observances (Sunday services, Friday prayers, Ramadan, pilgrimages, etc.)

 

4. Education

Depending on what the review reveals, you may want to promote to the board methods of educating the staff about the different religions.
This may include:

  • Key facts about each religion – beliefs and practices
  • What a manager should know about people of each faith, so they can understand where they are coming from and be able to spot unintentional discrimination before it becomes a problem
  • Lunchtime talks on relevant topics 

Ideas

  1. If your company has an internal social media site, encourage people of faith to post something relevant on it regularly
  2. Produce a periodic multi-faith newsletter
  3. Encourage individuals to post video clips explaining what they believe and what difference it makes to them at work
  4. Hold one or more events during Inter-Faith Week (normally in November)
  5. Hold a talk on topics like, Is there any evidence for the existence of God? This is relevant for many religions and can be a way of getting people of many different backgrounds together to share their perspectives.
  6. Start a book club covering the big questions of life.
  7. Arrange opportunities to visit places of worship of each religion – e.g. mosque, church, temple.
  8. Hold a company campaign such as Just Ask, to overcome people’s fear of getting things wrong by encouraging staff to ask questions about their colleagues’ religion – e.g. “Why do you wear a turban?” or, “What do you do on Sundays?”
  9. Organise events around religious holidays, e.g. Ramadan, Divali, Christmas, Easter, etc. This could include food, personal stories about what the events mean to staff members.
  10. Do some charitable work together: fundraising, supporting a charitable organisation, making collections (e.g. for Foodbank) 


 

The Christians Workplace Group in Royal Bank of Scotland organised an interfaith panel discussion. It turned out to be a thought-provoking look at the factors shaping both individuals' morals and the company values
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