London Faith Schools Senior School Conference 2015

IMG_3547The London Faith School’s Senior Schools Conference 2015,  was hosted this year by Al Sadiq and Al Zahra Schools and the Al Khoei Foundation on Thursday 19nd November, in National Inter Faith Week 2015. Ten faith schools across London participated in this exciting event, schools included: Al Sadiq and Al Zahra (Muslim), Bishop Ramsey (Church of England), Brondesbury College for Boys(Muslim), Burlington Danes (Church of England), Hasmonean Boys (Jewish), Hasmonean Girls (Jewish),  Islamia Girls (Muslim), JFS, Swaminarayan (Hindu) and Twyford (Church of England).

The theme of the Conference was “Recognising the Stranger; Faith and the Outsider: an Exploration”, which provided the opportunity for students from Year 11 and 12, from different faith schools, to meet together to share insight into what it means to be a citizen of the UK whose family has its roots in another land.  The conference looked at faith perspectives from the different traditions on relating to the stranger.

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Prior to the Conference, the students had the opportunity to visiting a Shia Mosque at Al Khoei Foundation, and learn something about a major annual religious commemoration of Ashura during the Islamic months of Muharram and Safar.

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The students were delighted to hear Fabrice NdalaMuamba giving an introductory talk. Fabrice Ndala Muamba  is a retired professional footballer who played for Arsenal, Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers as a central midfielder, beforre his career was cut short by a heart attack.  Fabrice talked about his early life as a Christian, brought up in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).  He then described his new connections and friendships with Muslims and Jewish friends when he came to live in England.   He also talked about the support he had got from people of different faiths and no faiths around the time of his illness.

Following Fabrice’s talk, the students made five-minute presentations about their religious traditions at their school, the range of geography represented by the students and also which generation of migration they came from. Pupils gave feedback about the amount of knowledge that they had learned from each other and felt it was inspiring.

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All the pupils were moved into mixed groups to look at contemporary media – attitudes to outsider and stranger. One pupil commented that she was fed up with all “Rubbish the media comes up with”!

IMG_3677Following this the students were move back into faith school groups to look at what their own traditions says about their attitude to the outsider and stranger. They then shared this in their mixed-faith school groups and agreed on one thing they would like to do to bridge the gap between their traditions and different attitudes towards the outsider. This opportunity to mix and engage with each other was something that all spoke very positively about when reporting on feedback. Finally all groups presented in a plenary on the theme   “what change would they like to see and why”.

In feedback a student described how the conference brought “a sense and understanding and tolerance of other faiths”.  Another said that he had only previously met people from his own faith and that this was the first time that they had mixed with people of other faiths! Another stressed the common sense of humanity they had discovered together; “ignorance leads to hatred and fear, education is the method of resolution.” “Believers are to one another as they are part of a similar scripture, humanity makes us strong as a person. All illustrate respect, corporation, happiness and acceptance which leads to unity in a community.” A drawing of a flowing of a bridge on one of the posters symbolised that there is the world and there is a common  theme. “No odd one out, despite different cultures backgrounds and beliefs we are part of one image, and we are all equal and are all the same!”  In feed back from a teacher the following comment was made: “Our students really enjoyed it and spoke very highly of being given the opportunity to speak to people of different faiths. Many of them commented that they have never spoken to someone who is … before. They continued the debate about the issues discussed all the way back to school on the bus.”

 

Laurence Hillel November 2015