The City Faith & Community Forum (CFCF) ran a youth delegation to Brussels September 12th-14th with funding from the JDC (Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) and the Spalding Trust.
CFCF is an international (pan-European) network of interfaith and community organisations from major cities throughout Europe. The purpose of the network is to facilitate the sharing of best practice between organisations working in the sector at a similar level. The network also works to build better relations between faith & community groups and municipal governing bodies. The network has partners in Edinburgh, Barcelona, Dublin, Helsinki, Lisbon, London Surrey and Zagreb.
The delegation brought together a group of 17 people primarily between the ages 18-30. The cohort was drawn from CFCF institutions in Edinburgh, Barcelona, Dublin, London and Surrey. Including international students who took part participants were representative of over 11 nationalities (American, Armenian, Bangladeshi, English, Indian, Irish, Italian, Nigerian Scottish, Somalian and Spanish) as well as, six different world faiths (Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh).
Along with connecting with each other and having opportunities to share their own views and stories of faith, interfaith and civil society participants met with an array of civil society actors and organisations working in the interfaith space on a Pan-European level. Some of the organisations our young participants got to meet included:
A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe (CEJI)
Conference of European Churches (CEC)
European Network Against Racism (ENAR)
Hindu Forum of Europe
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
Quaker Council of European Affairs (QCEA)
Along with a representative from the EU who worked on the implementation of Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU - the obligation on the EU to conduct an open, transparent and regular dialogue with churches, religious associations, and philosophical and non-confessional organisations)
It was a great experience to meet with like-minded young people and get the chance to discuss topical issues with civil society organisations and interfaith practitioners, who I would never have come across if not for this amazing opportunity.
The trip to Brussels was a great experience. I enjoyed visiting different organisations and hearing their experiences with overcoming some of the arising difficulties when working in the third sector. The trip has definitely made our Edinburgh Interfaith Association team more aware of the potential we have as an organisation and how to push forward to that next step. My highlight of the trip was meeting everyone and starting friendships and connections.
The experience in Brussels was for me... a forming experience and new entrance to the world of interfaith work and NGOs. The Associations we have met gave us a good overview of what the European Parliament is already doing to include experts of every anti-discrimination sector and most importantly made us realise the need for interfaith network in the European Union and across the continent. Cities experience discrimination in different ways and the opportunity that we are presented with is being able to receive support from fellow big and small cities’ associations and give advice on specific issues that the community might be going through. Europe Network Against Racism (ENAR) reflects that hard work towards a Europe not only tolerant but moving beyond tolerance to understanding, appreciation and respect for different minorities, faiths and cultures. It was interesting meeting people from different NGOs and to see how they are navigating and adapting to modern day issues. As new leaders come to govern and manage interfaith issues there is a need for a network that support leaders locally.