New Resource! Creating interfaith and environment initiatives
By Catrina Pickering 23rd March 2011
LIFE – Local Initiative for Faith and Environment – began in the summer of 2009, springing from a history of interfaith relationship-building in Lambeth, South London. It brings together women of faith as well as women involved in environmental work to undertake environmental activities.
The LIFE Project has been growing out of a two-way concern: Firstly that the essential message of Transition and information about how to live more sustainably were not being accessed by those for whom their ethnic grouping or religious affiliation found them somewhat self-contained, left out or, from another perspective, protected from involvement in community activism. And secondly that any movement towards unified action that lacked the diverse tapestry of cultures and ethnicities of a local community, was lacking some shades to its rainbow.
To follow the tapestry analogy, a meeting place was therefore needed that would shed new light onto the whole carpet: What has emerging environmentalism got to say about faith and its assumptions about life? And what message might faith, in its age-old rituals and language, and its different forms of renewal, bring to what is becoming the great motivating factor of modern life; how to live as human beings in harmony with a planet that is suffering to such an extent?
In the case of LIFE, this took the form of groups of women of different faiths gathering with women involved in environmental activism once a month, for eighteen months, to learn from each other. The questions we carried to these gatherings were, ‘Where does the idea of faith and our relationship with our environment come together? Where is this meeting point a place of mutual benefit (i.e. my faith offers me a more healthy window through which to view the world, care for the planet and my sense of belonging and identity within it)? And where can ideas about faith and its surrounding theologies and practices place it at logger-heads with the primary call of contemporary human-kind; to take full and personal responsibility for the way we lead our lives? And, equally, where might faith and spiritual insight offer a balm and a refuge for those who have exhausted their own resources in finding the best way forward?
After almost two years of capacity-building and friendship-creating, where issues to do with everything from home-energy, recycling and reuse of discarded materials for making useful and beautiful items were knitted together with conversations on universal symbols of faith, explorations into the physicality and psychology of belonging and identity, non-violent communication and Deep Ecology, LIFE was looking for its next incarnation. Because of the felt need for LIFE to filter down from one-off gatherings into the communities that needed to explore for themselves, the idea of the (How to Survive) LIFE Pack was formed.
The LIFE Pack is an inter-changeable series of resource sheets, using the framework of the tried and tested LIFE events as a template, to enable LIFE hubs to take root in and be run by local people. The sheets are assembled in the colourful LIFE Jackets, folders made out of old carrier bags by local artist Maggie Winnall. They offer suggestions for how either individuals or existing community groups can start hosting LIFE gatherings; safe spaces where women’s ideas, passions and skills can be expressed alongside their fears, loneliness, despair; all brought to the table under the banner of ‘this is LIFE: with faith and learning from each other, we can make a difference.’
If you’d be interested in starting up a LIFE group in your community, please get in touch. You can then be sent a LIFE Pack by email, and you can then contact a LIFE facilitator to come and visit your group, bringing their support, suggestions, a listening ear and a LIFE Jacket…so you can set sail!
- For LIFE in Lambeth please contact: Saadat Yusuf – firstname.lastname@example.org / 07939 325 032, Sue Sheehan – email@example.com / 020 7926 7672, Tini Brodie – firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 8673 3365
- For groups specific to Christian-Muslim relationship-building, please contact: The Christian Muslim Forum, 70 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL Email: Forum Director, Julian Bond – Julian@christianmuslimforum.org, Telephone: 020 8420 0888
- For groups elsewhere and general information about LIFE please contact: Rebecca Brewin – email@example.com / 07896 936 625