DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF ST PHILLIPS CENTRE, RIAZ RAVAT BEM, WRITES ABOUT THE AIMS AND SUCCESS OF INCREASING POSITIVE MULTI-FAITH RELATIONS WITHIN THE CITY.
St Philip’s Centre is a charity set up in 2006 which is rooted in the multi-faith environment of Leicester, the UK’s most ethnically diverse city. With its origins and ethos within the Christian faith and the Diocese of Leicester, the Centre has developed into an organisation which not only services those from a Christian background but resources people from all faith and belief backgrounds. Since the Centre was established, over 10,000 people have connected with our work locally, nationally and internationally. Our current Director is Revd Canon Dr John Hall.
The Centre has acquired a reputation for promoting positive community relations through our high quality religion and belief training courses which enable communities and public sector workers to acquire a strong literacy when working with faith communities. From new Police recruits to local authority staff and schoolchildren to college lecturers, we have a wide portfolio of courses available which have provided training for nearly 2000 people.
Our work keeps an eye on the future. We work with educational establishments across the region to provide education for both students and staff. In 2012/2013 alone, our schools and colleges programmes engaged nearly 1500 pupils. This includes our highly popular ‘Religion & Belief Roadshow’ which tours the region to deliver fun-packed and interactive learning.
Our social action events have provided a huge impetus for our work with communities. They provide a space for building confidence and to remain true to the shared values we stand for as faiths. Each year we run Mitzvah Day, Sewa Day and an Interfaith Iftaar. Each project tackles social disadvantage by assisting the vulnerable in society or by helping to build mutual trust and friendships. Each event is delivered alongside volunteers from different faith backgrounds including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh.
The Centre is one of only a limited number of areas of the UK to run the Near Neighbours programme, which is part of the Government’s Big Society agenda. Near Neighbours supports activities which build and bind communities through faith connections. Grants are available for community projects, dialogue and Catalyst – a young adults’ leadership programme delivered in Leicester and East London.
Our work is increasingly attracting international attention. We have hosted visits and worked with partners from France, China, India, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Sweden, Syria, Turkey and the USA.
Civic and community engagement enables St Philip’s Centre to provide a firm root for our work in building and sustaining good inter faith relations. It also enables us to discharge the very responsibilities which are enshrined in the codes of our respective faiths.