11 June 2012: MPs have praised the achievements of the 56 students graduating from 3FF's (Three Faiths Forum) Undergraduate ParliaMentors programme at the House of Commons on 11 June. The UN award-winning initiative, which improves relations between people of different faiths and beliefs while developing a new generation of leaders, is supported by MPs, Peers and MEPs from across the political spectrum who act as mentors to the students.
Dominic Grieve QC MP, a former mentor speaking at the graduation ceremony, said: "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."
Jonathan Reynolds MP, also a ParliaMentor, said: "Schemes like this bring communities together and have a valuable part to play in building stronger and more open societies."
13 MPs, 2 Peers and 2 MEPs took part in ParliaMentors this year, giving students an insider's look at politics through debates, committee meetings and networking with policymakers at events in London and Brussels. This year saw the launch of the EU branch of ParliaMentors, which 3FF runs in partnership with the British Council.
The programme brings together students of different faiths and non-religious beliefs to work in groups to create social action projects. The process gives them a greater understanding of each other's perspectives, and the skills and experience to take on leadership roles, working towards a more integrated, diverse and dynamic society.
This year these projects included support for young carers in Manchester and addressed issues such as human trafficking at the Olympics, the detention of asylum seekers, street children in the UK, and political apathy among Britain's youth. Students also formed new campus organisations, hosted expert panels and launched a new comment magazine to address their chosen issues.
Khafi, a Christian student at Royal Holloway, University of London, described her group's inspiration for their project, which portrayed the positive aspects of the act of protest: "After the many riots and violent protests that took place in 2011, the aim of our project was to celebrate social action by encouraging young people to get their voices heard in a creative and constructive manner, redefining the mostly negative conceptions of the word 'protest.'"
Lucy, an Atheist student at Queen Mary, University of London, said: "The programme encourages curiosity, giving 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'."
The graduation ceremony took place in the House of Commons, Monday 11 June, 4.30-5.30 pm
For more information
Phone: 0207 482 9535
Mobile: 0750 668 0903
Notes for editors
3FF (Three Faiths Forum) works to create understanding and lasting relationships between people of all faiths and beliefs. 3FF has been working for 15 years to improve relations between different communities at many different levels of society: with teachers and students, artists and professionals, political leaders in parliament and upcoming leaders still at university.
Undergraduate ParliaMentors, winner of the UN Award for Intercultural Innovation, equips the next generation of leaders with the skills, experiences and networks they need to advance their careers. Undergraduates who aspire to be political or community leaders work with students of different faiths and beliefs to create social action and empowerment projects with support from leading NGOs. They are mentored by MPs and Peers and get to attend expert-led workshops and events. Over 200 people have graduated from the programme over the last five years.
About the British Council
The British Council is the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in over 100 countries in the arts, education and English and in 2010/11 we engaged face to face with 30 million people and reached 578 million. We have 6,800 staff worldwide. Our total turnover in 2010/11 was £693 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was £190 million. The remainder was generated through trading activities such as English language teaching. For every £1 of taxpayer money invested we earn £2.65 in additional income. For more information visit www.britishcouncil.org