NICVA Community Faiths' Forum

20 Dec 2021 Lynda Gould    Last updated: 20 Dec 2021

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The Community Faiths’ Forum (CFF) is open to all faith groups who seek to help disadvantaged, excluded, or marginalised people in local communities.

Background

In February 2010, the Minister for Social Development, Margaret Ritchie announced plans to establish a Faith Forum for Social Development in Northern Ireland. In a statement to the Assembly, she said:

‘I am currently agreeing and finalising proposals to establish a two-year pilot faith forum for social development. The forum will draw its members from churches and faith groups across Northern Ireland that have demonstrated a sustained commitment to serving those in need in our community, regardless of their individual faith, religion, or creed. Officials in the Department’s voluntary and community unit will meet with the forum quarterly to discuss relevant policy areas. At those meetings, the officials will also hear suggestions from faith-based organisations on how my Department can better partner with faith groups in harnessing and unlocking their potential to reach and help the people and communities in greatest need.’  (Northern Ireland Assembly, 2010)

The Community Faiths’ Forum (CFF) was initially funded as a two-year pilot, through the Voluntary and Community Unit (VCU) of the Department for Social Development (DSD), and the first meeting was held in May 2010; it was open to all faith groups who sought to help disadvantaged, excluded, or marginalised people in local communities. At that time, the membership of the Forum included twenty representatives drawn from the various Christian traditions and five members from the Baha’i, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faiths. The Forum met quarterly to work together on issues such as poverty, housing, community development, good relations, volunteering and community engagement. The Forum’s work was initially administered by the Churches’ Community Work Alliance (CCWA) NI, and included a research element, the sharing of best practice, learning from each other’s work and projects, and discernment of the best role faith communities could play in society, particularly against the backdrop of recession. However, in May 2016 the Churches Community Work Alliance ceased trading and work funded by the Department for Communities including the oversight of the CFF, transferred to NICVA as an integral part of the ongoing Regional Infrastructure Support Programme. In December 2019, the CFF finalised its terms of reference and representation has grown to nearly 40 organisations and individuals engaging in faith and belief-based community development.

Aims of the Community Faiths’ Forum

The core aims of the Community Faiths’ Forum are:

  • To develop an advocacy and influencing role, developing active engagement with government departments
  • To consider if appropriate and take shared action on agreed social issues
  • To learn, celebrate and explore faith spaces, the value of the sector and act as champions.
  • To build relationships across the Voluntary and Community Sector, Department for Communities and other government departments and other relevant networks.
  • To build and maintain good relationships based on mutual respect
  • To encourage better understanding of each other’s faith
  • To provide a forum for discussing matters of mutual concern and to provide a voice to express common concerns as and when appropriate
  • To provide a forum that enables other bodies to consult with the different faith communities in our area
  • To organise appropriate, inter-faith activities.

Membership

To encourage and facilitate multi faith dialogue around issues of poverty, disadvantage and social inclusion, the Community Faiths’ Forum comprises of a membership from all faith groupings interested in this area of work. Individual members of the forum are drawn from a wide range of faith backgrounds. All members have experience in the delivery of practical social action projects working in areas of deprivation and greatest need.

Key role of individuals

  • Attending meetings 
  • Being an advocate for the Forums’ activities
  • Being committed to and actively involved in the Forums’ activities
  • Bringing ideas/challenges to consider in the Forum’s work

Meetings

The Community Faiths’ Forum meets quarterly, however, other ad hoc meetings and events may be held from time to time and members are notified of these. The meetings are chaired by NICVA.

Resourcing

DfC currently provides the resource costs for the Community Faiths’ Forum as part of the Faith Based Engagement element of the Regional Infrastructure Support Programme. The resources are part of an overall contract for delivery of outcomes with the NI Council for Voluntary Action and the Rural Community Network, the specific functions of which are outlined above.

List of Member organisations:

174 Trust, Belfast

Northwest Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Centre

Indian Community Centre, Belfast

Prison Fellowship NI

Willowfield Parish Community Association, Belfast

Presbyterian Church in Ireland Council for Social Witness

Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Belfast

Irish Council of Churches

Christians Against Poverty

East Belfast Mission

Northern Ireland Muslim Family Association

Quaker Service

The Salvation Army, Bangor

Evangelical Alliance NI

CARE in Northern Ireland

The Cinnamon Network

Humanists UK

The Trussell Trust

Thrive Ireland

The Link Family and Community Centre, Newtownards

Care for the Family

Vineyard Compassion, Coleraine

Grace Ministry, North Down

CANS (Counselling All Nations Services)

Fermanagh Rural Community Network

Redeeming Our Communities NI

Irish School of Ecumenics - Belfast Campus

Irish Council of Churches

Northern Ireland Muslim Family Association

Belfast Islamic Centre

Belfast Bible College

The Larder, Belfast

Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Guru Nanak Dev Ji Sikh Association (Sikh Community Association Belfast)

Rural Community Network

Department for Communities: Voluntary and Community Division

NICVA

 

 

December 2021

lynda.gould@nicva.org's picture
by Lynda Gould

Project Coordinator (Faith-based engagement)

[email protected]

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