Multi Faith Forums
An organisation may start a multi faith forum or faith network in response to the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that all faith are equally represented in the workplace.
Multi faith forums and faith networks can provide the ideal opportunity to create a Christian group.
A number of Christian groups have great working relationships with the multi faith forums in their organisations such as Rolls Royce, Network Rail the Cabinet Office…
Key objectives of a Multi-Faith Forum
1. Support the Board’s commitment to the Diversity and Inclusion legislation and agenda with respect to faith; in particular, ensuring that the company’s policies and practices do not discriminate against any faiths
2. Empower employees to be open and honest about their faith and to bring the whole of themselves to work
3. Educate staff with a better understanding of different faiths, how these influence approach to work and how individuals of faith can best be supported
Models for a Multi-Faith Forum
There are several forms a Multi-Faith Forum 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 Multi-Faith Forum 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 alcoho
• 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.)
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
If your company has an internal social media site, encourage people of faith to post something relevant on it regularly
Produce a periodic multi-faith newsletter
Encourage individuals to post video clips explaining what they believe and what difference it makes to them at work
Hold one or more events during Inter-Faith Week (normally in November)
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.
Start a book club covering the big questions of life.
Arrange opportunities to visit places of worship of each religion – e.g. mosque, church, temple.
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?”
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.
Do some charitable work together: fundraising, supporting a charitable organisation, making collections (e.g. for Foodbank)
1. Why should I get involved in multi-faith at all if Christianity is the only true religion?
As Christians we should love all our colleagues whatever their religion. Whilst we believe that everyone needs to know Jesus, we will only influence them if they know we genuinely love them and are humble, willing to listen and understand others.
2. Is a Multi-Faith Forum a means of mixing up all the faiths?
In no way should this be the aim of a Multi-Faith Forum. Some religions are more open to a wide range of gods and religious ideas, but other faiths are exclusive. This applies to
• Christians (“I am the way the truth and the life, no-one can come to the father except through me”)
• Muslims (“I declare there is no god but Allah and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”)
A one-religion-fits-all approach may be considered ideal by some people in the company, but any attempt to push this should be resisted and should be gently shown that that’s not how religions work.