What is the role of faith groups in a society with ever-increasing need? This was one of the many interesting questions raised at the recent event called Faith in Social Action: Where next?

This one day conference was used to launch a research paper written by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), Faith-based Regeneration Network (FbRN) and the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion. The paper looks at the position of faith-based organisations in relation to changing government policies and local need.

Sitting with other faith-based practitioners, grass-roots activists and policy makers, I was inspired as I listened to speakers from many faith backgrounds share their experiences of social action and the challenges they have faced. It was incredible to hear how activists from different faiths were learning from other faith traditions. One wonderful example of this was how Mitzvah Day, a national day of social action run by the Jewish community, had inspired Sadaqa Day in the Muslim community.

‘At the heart of interfaith work we just need to have trust and friendship’

Hearing about people’s willingness to learn from each other, share ideas and work together was exciting and humbling. Julie Siddiqi, who spoke about Sadaqa Day, captured the atmosphere of the room when she articulated that ‘at the heart of interfaith work we just need to have trust and friendship’.

In the context of spending cuts and welfare reform, Nic Schlagman of the West London Synagogue, asked how faith-based organisations can move from service delivery to the pursuit of justice. This theme ran through the day as people continued to ask how we, as faith groups, can be more than just a ‘sticking plaster’ and actually tackle the causes of the social injustice that we see in our communities.

This conference asked challenging and thought-provoking questions about the role of faith-based organisations in responding to contemporary social issues. With a decrease in funding for voluntary organisations, faith-based groups often find themselves offering core support to their communities and giving invaluable care to those around them. It is important that we continue to work together, to build collaboration and to share learning so that we can continue to build resilient and flourishing communities.

If you would like to read the research paper, you can download it here