Crawley Inter Faith Network (CIFN)

Activities of the BHA local development volunteers.

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Crawley Inter Faith Network (CIFN)

Postby aedwests_human » Tue 11 Mar, 2008 8:01 pm

CIFN is a secular organisation partly funded by Crawley Borough Council and the Community Development Foundation. Their objectives are:

(1) To celebrate cultural diversity and promote unity
(2) To work towards creating common ground
(3) To provide a means for the general public to be involved in multi-faith activities
(4) To be an initial contact point whenever there is a need for consultation or assistance on multi-faith issues
(5) To arrange annual/regular activities, including events open to the general public, which are religious, cultural and social gatherings, in order to foster understanding and build upon differences
(6) To create dialogue to support bridge building amongst faith and secular communities in and around Crawley

Their constitution can be found here: ... on2006.pdf

UPDATE November 2009: CIFN are working on a new constitution. I will replace the above link when this is published.

BHA volunteers have attended several meetings and the proposed community garden.
Last edited by aedwests_human on Wed 18 Nov, 2009 9:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

2005 blog about CIFN

Postby aedwests_human » Wed 25 Jun, 2008 1:32 pm

2005 blog about CIFN

Here is a link to an interesting blog I found recently. ... ment-99036

It's from 2005 and describes the experience of an active member of the Labour party who attended an early event.
Last edited by aedwests_human on Wed 18 Nov, 2009 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

Minutes of CIFN meetings

Postby aedwests_human » Tue 08 Jul, 2008 2:25 pm

Last edited by aedwests_human on Mon 24 Nov, 2008 9:24 pm, edited 3 times in total.


Postby aedwests_human » Thu 07 Aug, 2008 8:51 am

AwayDay meeting

On 24th July 2008 I attended CIFN's AwayDay as the Humanist representative.

The meeting was very friendly and everyone participated.

The aim of this meeting, which ran from 10am to 4pm, was to identify groups that matter to CIFN (the stakeholders), their needs, and how CIFN can serve them best.

The meeting split into groups. Each group considered three stakeholders and prepared flip charts for presenting their findings to the meeting.

We all considered the aims and future of CIFN.

Organiser Liz Lamport has summarised the findings of the AwayDay. She released an early draft for comments. I have amended the draft, and requested the inclusion of "A commitment to promoting Human Rights" in the Mission Statement.

I will place a copy of the final draft of the summary on the website.
Last edited by aedwests_human on Wed 18 Nov, 2009 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

CIFN and Humanist membership

Postby aedwests_human » Wed 28 Jan, 2009 12:19 pm

CIFN have decided not to include Humanism as a group member, as Humanism is not a faith.

They have agreed to having an individual Humanist member (myself), and I will continue to attend meetings, contributing where appropriate.

CIFN meeting of 20th May 2009

Postby aedwests_human » Tue 02 Jun, 2009 9:17 pm

CIFN meeting of 20th May 2009

This meeting was held in the meeting room/temple of the Gurjar Hindu Union (see their website at

There was an update on the Crawley Inter Faith Garden.

Funding has been found for a new development worker. Interviews will take place shortly.

A few upcoming local events were announced.

The main part of the meeting was given over to the new Hindu temple and leisure centre nearing completion, called the Sanatan Mandir and Community Project (SMCC). We were shown a walk through video ( ... 4526388183).

Our host, Ashwin Soni, described how the Hindu community (which is the largest religious minority group in Crawley) raised half the £4 million building costs. They have taken out a business loan for the remainder.

Crawley BC sold them the land for 20% of the value.

The sports facilities at new centre will be open to the public.

Ashwin Soni described how the Hindu community was in danger of fragmenting if a community centre and temple were not established. He also spoke emotively about the discrimination they faced when trying to set up the centre.

Mr Soni stressed that their Hindu community is much more than their shared faith, the latter being inextricably bound up with their culture.

Official minutes of the meeting can be found here: ... ay2009.htm
Last edited by aedwests_human on Wed 18 Nov, 2009 9:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

CIFN Human Rights and Faith Event July 2009

Postby aedwests_human » Thu 23 Jul, 2009 3:54 pm

CIFN Human Rights and Faith Event July 2009

I attended the CIFN Human Rights and Faith Event last night.

I had prepared material on Human Rights and Religion, expecting the discussion to be mainly about Human Rights, as the title suggests.

Apart from a brief mention about the origin of Human Rights after the 2nd World War (the European Human Rights Commission), the speaker did not cover any Human Rights issues in her talk. Although of interest, Jane Heybroek gave a personal account of her work as a Buddhist barrister.

The advertising leaflet gave the impression that the talk would consider Human Rights issues and religious beliefs, given by a barrister with expertise in Human Rights.

In an email, I suggested that future talks be described in more detail.

The speaker, Jane Heybroek, is a barrister specialising in immigration and criminal law.

She became a Buddhist at the age of 31.

Jane explained that Human Rights are not just limited to lawyers, and wished to add her own Human Right: that all people are worthy of respect.

In her prosecution and defence work, she tries to understand the motivation of criminals, treating them as human beings first and foremost. She explained that the Crown Prosecution Service requires all barristers to present their cases fairly, which allows her to work in accordance with her Buddhist beliefs.

She finds family law difficult, as she does not wish to be drawn into the usual legal mud slinging. Sometimes, she finds it difficult to balance her Buddhist beliefs with her work.

She is critical of the immigration system, and gave several cases in which they appeared to act inhumanely. She would not work for them on principle.

Asked if there were any cases which she would refuse, Jane said she would resist defending a child molester, though this was more because she is a mother.

She was also asked her views on assisted suicide cases. Jane said that Buddhists believe that taking your own life is bad karma and that life is sacred, though she would defend someone charged with assisting suicide.

After the meeting, I chatted with fellow atheist Dan Allen of the National Secular Society. We wondered if CIFN was ready for an open discussion of Human Rights issues and religion.
Last edited by aedwests_human on Wed 18 Nov, 2009 9:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

CIFN meeting of 1st October 2009

Postby aedwests_human » Mon 05 Oct, 2009 8:48 pm

CIFN meeting of 1st October 2009

The meeting took place in part of St Peter's church and comprised about 10 people.

One of the church stewards gave a history of the church. He also mentioned the "starter packs" the church gives to young homeless when they arrive at a nearby housing association.

After a few notices, the main speaker, Nitin Mehta from Croydon, gave a talk on Hinduism. At one point, he described the four castes of the Bhagavad Gita. People fall into one of these groupings: businessman, artisan, intellectual, labourer.

He went on to explain how the original conception of the caste system was intended to aid people in choosing their most compatible occupation. But the system was abused by those in power: there was no way for offspring to escape the caste of their parents. The caste system was eventually made illegal under Mahatma Ghandi; however, in rural areas, the caste system is still in force.

He went on to describe how Hindus are happy to live amongst those of other religion or none. They are also vegetarian and taught not to harm creatures.

A question and answer session revolved mainly about the divisive caste system.

Nitin invited those present to their festive dinner later in the year.

CIFN AGM November 2009

Postby aedwests_human » Wed 18 Nov, 2009 10:21 am

CIFN AGM November 2009

The Annual Report ( was introduced by the Chair. The new development worker, Ishrat Naveed, made her report and indicated her interest in engaging with the younger generation by forming an Inter Faith Youth Forum. She also stressed the need to encourage women of different religions to participate in CIFN. She announced a WSCC workshop in December to share information about people's beliefs, to break down myths and encourage cohesion across the County.

It was reported that there was a declining attendance in the various events organised by CIFN throughout the year. They were mainly attended by CIFN members and the same individuals.

CIFN gave talks at Horsham ICC and Central Sussex College as part of their Diversity Week. I was surprised not to have been invited by the latter, as I was last time. So much for diversity.

A new committee was elected. Thanks were made to the outgoing members and the Chair, Roger Baker, was presented with a bunch of flowers in gratitude for his 3 year chairmanship.

The new Chair, Mohinder Galowalia, suggested that CIFN concentrate on social cohesion, with the various religious groups concentrating on what they have in common, i.e. Humanity.

The Secretary, Fatima Mirza of Crawley Borough Council, stepped down and announced that she would no be a link between CIFN and CBC. She felt that it was necessary for religious leaders to meet and discuss how they can contribute to social cohesion. One of the Church of England leaders said that it was difficult enough getting their own local leaders to meet, let alone those from other denominations and religions.

A Hindu representative suggested a meeting based on best practice for advising how to run their new temple in Crawley.

Of particular interest and importance was the presence of a group of young new members. The importance of younger people was emphasised by a youth worker. I spoke with one of these new members. He spoke enthusiastically about tackling controversial areas, callenging traditional stereotypes and discussing the Humanism common to modern religious groups in Crawley.

The new Chair, Mohinder Galowalia, is a Sikh who is sympathetic to Humanism. He has spoken in favour of Humanism at West Sussex SACRE, of which he is a member. Perhaps the combination of his chairmanship and the younger members may begin a new direction for CIFN that will embrace Humanism as the central core of social cohesion.

Official minutes if this meeting can be found here: ... GM2009.htm

Muslim women speakers at The Hawth

Postby Andrew Edmondson » Fri 08 Jan, 2010 4:30 am

07 February 2010 22:30

On 27th January 2010, Crawley Inter Faith Network (CIFN) organised a talk at The Hawth, in association with "Faith Matters" as part of their "Making your Voices Heard" project.

The two Muslim speakers were a human rights lawyer and a writer on issues of the Middle East, women and race. Both speakers were on tour from the USA.

The Elgar room of the Hawth was packed with people. I arrived as the lawyer, a former teacher, was describing some aspects of life for muslims in the US.

She said there was an assumption of guilt for Muslim detainees, and that the supreme court upheld a ruling supporting the profiling of Muslims. She contrasted the media description of a Muslim killer as a "terrorist" with the description of a Chinese killer as "mentally ill"; neither had terrorist connections.

She wants to challenge the media stereotype of Muslim women, pointing out that they are all different individuals, and not oppressed by the men of their community.

The Muslim writer wants Muslim women to assert themselves and break out of their passivity. She competed in a national martial arts competition and sent a photo of herself to her family in Iraq. Within a few days, the image had spread across the nation.

There were several Religious Education (RE) teachers present, including the CIFN development worker Ishrat Naveed. We were told that RE teachers are poorly qualified, especially in Islam; however, they are oprimistic for the future.

Mohinder Galowalia, the new chair of CIFN, described how the term Allah is used by Muslims in some countries to refer only to the God of Islam, e.g. Malaysia, but in other countries the term refers to God generally. He concluded by reiterating his desire fo CIFN to concentrate on humanity and the similarities between religions rather than on their differences.

Questions an comments were invited from the audience. One person asked about a Muslim lobby group in the US. We were told that this had not yet come to fruition and was a work in progress.

Another attendee said that we should concentrate on fighting for the equality of all community groups, rather than for their own specific religious group.

A CIFN member with experience of women's groups in Egypt spoke of the value of hearing personal accounts of religious people. At each meeting of CIFN, a member of a different religion is invited to give their personal story.
Andrew Edmondson
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Joined: Wed 17 Feb, 2010 8:48 am

Crawley InterFaith Network Meeting 27th March 2010

Postby Andrew Edmondson » Sun 28 Mar, 2010 12:49 pm

This important meeting of Crawley InterFaith Network (CIFN) took place in Crawley Town Hall and was attended by about 40 people, including representatives of Crawley Borough Council.

After a few preliminaries, Mohinder Galowalia used a PowerPoint presentation to talk about Community Cohesion and how CIFN could contribute towards this.

He began with various definitions of community cohesion (there are several; some people think the term is unhelpful) and then outlined his ideas on how to achieve this.

The first and most important of these was the concept of inclusion; there can be no community cohesion if one group is excluded. This is the view of the British Humanist Association (BHA) and why we have been campaigning to be included in national and local government consultations and activities that involve religious organisations.

Mohinder announced that local schools/colleges have invited Crawley InterFaith to give talks to their students over the past few years. I was not invited to Central Sussex College during their Equality and Diversity week this year, which shows how much work is needed to raise awareness of Humanism and non-religious beliefs locally.

Of particular interest is Mohinder's invitation to give a talk on community cohesion and InterFaith at the next meeting of West Sussex County Council's (WSCC) Religious Education advisory body (SACRE). This council has refused Humanist membership for the past 4 years, excluding the voice of the non-religious 43% of the population; so it will be interesting to see how they tackle community cohesion.

The next few slides of the PowerPoint presentation described the proposed stages of development for CIFN, moving towards community cohesion. The first stage has already been achieved, i.e. the creation of CIFN and the bringing together of various religious organisations. The aim of the next two stages is to agree on shared human values, starting with the easy ones and then progressing towards more controversial areas.

The last stage is involvement with the community at large, including the non-religious. Later in the meeting, Mohinder said that he did not know how long this would take, perhaps 10 years. My heart sank at this point, as I realised that there would be no Humanist involvement in the discussion of the shared human values necessary for community cohesion, which is at the centre of the Humanist movement and enshrined in Human Rights.

During a brief question time at the end of the presentation, I asked Mohinder if Humanism would be part of Crawley InterFaith, bearing in mind his emphasis on the inclusive nature of community cohesion. He read from the CIFN constitution one of their aims: "To create dialogue to support bridge building amongst faith and secular communities in Crawley." and pledged that Humanists and the non-religious would become involved eventually.

Later in the meeting someone asked if Humanism was perhaps the ideal way forward. We had a chat after the meeting. I said that secularism was the only way community cohesion could succeed in the UK. There can be no religion or belief bias in government at either a national or local level.

Mohinder then presented a detailed introduction to Sikhism, which began with the birth of Guru Nanak in 1469. He explained how Sikhism welcomes all religions, and that a truly religious person will have no conflict with another.

At the end of the meeting, one of the founding members of CIFN suggested that they discuss a controversial issue at each meeting. Mohinder agreed; he had suggested earlier that each month a common shared value could be celebrated on their proposed new website. I was reminded of a recent parliamentary report where Rodney Green, the Chief Executive of Leicester City Council, said there was a need for honest dialogue within communities about cultural differences:

"I think a cohesive community is a community that has naturally many cross-links, where people from different race, age, background, feel free and happy to mix together in housing, in education, in leisure facilities. One test of that in my experience in Leicester is the willingness and ability to talk frankly and openly face-to-face about quite sensitive issues. If your language in a community is very politically correct, if you are treading on thin ice all the time and always being polite, that is not a cohesive community; it is a careful community."

I had hoped that Humanism was going to be formally included by CIFN. Currently, the national InterFaith movement (started in 1987), only includes 9 religions: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Baha’i, Jain and Zoroastrian. However, some local InterFaith forums have welcomed all religions and beliefs, including Horsham InterFaith Forum, where I recently gave a talk. They are pressing the national InterFaith network (created before the Human Rights Act and Equality Act) to promote equality and community cohesion by including all religion and belief communities. The BHA has criticised the government for concentrating on InterFaith, thereby excluding the non-religious.

The plans unveiled at this meeting are a big step in the right direction but there needs to be full inclusion from the outset if community cohesion is to be achieved in the near future.

Andrew Edmondson
Andrew Edmondson
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Joined: Wed 17 Feb, 2010 8:48 am

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