On Thursday 17 November, the second annual Interfaith Summit took place at SPACE Studios in London, with 400 people in attendance. The summit saw young leaders of different faiths and beliefs come together to discuss and act on some of today’s most pressing issues. Sessions included discussions on post-Brexit community relations, responses to both the US presidential election and the ongoing refugee crisis, and mental health, identity and discrimination – involving leading NGOs, academics and change-makers.
The Interfaith Summit is run by alumni of 3FF’s UN award-winning leadership programme ParliaMentors and supported by Pears Foundation. Coinciding with National Interfaith Week, the Summit is an interactive, youth-led space for people of all faiths and beliefs to connect, explore, and act, together.
Zarah Mohammed, President of FOSIS, said: “We’re led to believe that these sorts of spaces don’t really exist anymore, and we can’t really be ourselves, or perhaps we’re a little afraid of what others might think. I think what this Interfaith Summit has done beautifully is bring people together and let them be themselves, and let them know that it’s okay to be yourself”.
This sentiment is echoed by Amy Longland, ParliaMentors Alumni, who said: “There’s a lot of people that don’t feel as though they’re being listened to, they don’t feel as though their opinions matter, or their voice matters. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of far-right resurgence and people gripping onto an identity they perhaps feel has been taken from them. The idea of creating a safe space for dialogue and for talking and working together is really, really important”.
Cllr. Hashim Bhatti, one of the Summit organisers, said: “The tensions and divisions that have surfaced since the Brexit vote and the US presidential election, as well as the rise in reported hate crimes in Britain, show that the need for events like the Interfaith Summit is greater than ever. As young people from a wide range of faith and belief backgrounds we are uniquely placed to make a positive difference on these issues, by building a movement for change across our different communities.”
The opportunity for meaningful engagement, dialogue and action between people of diverse faith and belief backgrounds is needed now more than ever. This year’s Interfaith Summit was a timely reminder of the importance of unity at a time when many are seeking to divide communities.
Liron Velleman, Campaigns Officer at the Union of Jewish Students said: “When so many different groups are being attacked by illiberal values that we’re seeing across the world, I think it’s really important that groups can come together in spaces like this to try to change that situation.”
The Interfaith Summit importantly allows young people the opportunity to bring about the change they want to see in the world. Ben Shapiro, from 3FF, said: “I think it’s important that we as young people who have the most at stake in the future, and can do the most to affect the future, are able to bring people together in a way that helps spur on and catalyse action on the issues”.