This week, in a show of Britain’s diversity at its best, forty-five students of different faiths and non-religious beliefs are looking to change the face of politics by taking part in the Undergraduate ParliaMentors programme, a 3FF (Three Faiths Forum) initiative to develop a new generation of leaders.
University students from around the UK are receiving extensive leadership training during a three day induction at Pax Lodge in North London. They will work in trios to develop and deliver social action projects in their university cities.
One trio of Muslim, Catholic and Agnostic students in London, who met for the first time yesterday, decided they want to apply their new leadership skills by raising awareness of the contribution and experiences of homeless people in London through mixed media. Another group (Sikh, Christian and Buddhist) is planning a visual campaign to demonstrate the religious and ethnic diversity of Cardiff.
The participants will also be mentored by MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum, gaining an insider’s look into politics through debates, committee meetings and networking with policymakers. Former mentors on the programme include Dominic Grieve QC MP, John Bercow MP, Iain Duncan Smith MP, Baroness Susan Kramer, Simon Hughes MP, Hazel Blears MP, Stephen Twigg MP, and Margaret Hodge MP.
Arif, a Muslim student at the University of Leeds, said: “The programme for me is a chance to work with people of other faiths on a deep, practical level. It’s a chance to build something sustainable together.”
Mohan, a Sikh student at Cardiff University, said: “It’s been really interesting so far, especially encountering so many new ideas and views that perhaps some of us have not had access to before. The ParliaMentors programme is a good way to see politics in action, something that will ultimately benefit all of us in our future careers.”
During this week’s induction, students are receiving training in teamwork, media skills, project management and dialogue skills – and visiting the Houses of Parliament.
Rebekah, a Christian student at the University of Birmingham, found the dialogue training particularly useful: “Because I have very clear ideas of my own faith, I have always shied away from asking people questions for fear of offending them. The teaching here – talking about ways to frame questions, and even answers – has been really helpful for me.”
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.
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. ”
Photos from the event are available here.