The Olympics showed multi-cultural Britain and community engagement at its best. But that diversity is not always represented in or even properly understood by our political leadership. Forty-five students of different faiths and non-religious beliefs are looking to change that by taking part in Undergraduate ParliaMentors, a 3FF (Three Faiths Forum) initiative to develop a new generation of leaders.
The programme brings together students from different faiths and non-religious beliefs to work in groups of three on social action and political empowerment projects, addressing local and national issues. They will also be mentored by MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum, gaining an insider’s look at politics through debates, committee meetings and networking with policymakers.
- The programme launches on 11 September in London. As the world remembers the victims of intolerance and extremism, ParliaMentors is building understanding and new networks between people of different faiths and beliefs, contributing to a more cohesive society.
- Senior politicians such as John Bercow, Iain Duncan Smith, Hazel Blears and Dominic Grieve – all former mentors – are supporters of the programme.
- As the programme starts, the students can look forward to three days of leadership training, including sessions on teamwork, media skills, project management and dialogue skills – as well as a visit to the Houses of Parliament.
- Previous student projects supported young carers in Manchester, addressed human trafficking at the Olympics, the detention of asylum seekers, street children in the UK and political apathy among Britain’s youth.
- Undergraduate ParliaMentors is winner of the United Nations Award for Intercultural Innovation.
- The programme is now in its 6th year. It has over 200 alumni who have gone on to work in politics, media and for NGOs.
Yasmin, a Muslim student at King’s College London taking part in this year’s programme, said:
“I wanted to participate in Undergraduate ParliaMentors because it gives individuals the skills and resources to bring social and political change to their communities. The way to progress is not one of apprehension, suspicion and criminalisation but one of dignity, compassion and understanding. Understanding starts with dialogue, which is such an important part of the ParliaMentors programme.”
Lucy, an atheist student at Queen Mary, University of London, said of her time on the programme last year:
“My initial motivation for joining the programme was to challenge the idea that only religious groups need to interact in order for successful integration and development to take place. I also really wanted the opportunity to show atheism in the co-operative light in which it is rarely presented. The programme encourages curiosity and has given me the skills to ask difficult questions as well as answer them in a way which contributes to the meaningful exchange of ideas. I am thrilled to have met people who continue to completely defy my previous perception of what it means to be ‘religious’.”
Mark Greer, 3FF’s Mentoring Programmes Manager, said:
“This year competition for Undergraduate ParliaMentors was tougher than ever with 240 applications received for 45 places. We are excited to have an excellent cohort of students and look forward to seeing them work together for social change as well as develop their own networks in the world of politics, the third sector and policymaking.”
Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP, a former mentor, has endorsed the programme:
“This country’s strength is its ability to bring people from different backgrounds together. But for people to start working towards common goals they need to understand each other, as misunderstanding prevents cooperation. What 3FF and the Undergraduate ParliaMentors programme have done is to provide that opportunity for people to understand each other and work together.”