Yesterday I was at the NCVYS annual conference and AGM to launch Factor in Faith.
Factor in Faith is a document that aims to assist organisations in responding to the needs of young people of all faiths and culture, and also those of no faith. Factor in faith provides principles and recommendations to help make organisations that work with young people more faith and culturally sensitive.
It’s also about getting organisations to agree to support the following principles:
• build bridges between young people who have different faiths and cultures, including those who have no religious faith.
• make links with other organisations which are based on different faiths or cultures.
• create spaces where young people can talk freely about their faith, culture and beliefs.
• help young people to oppose prejudice and oppression based on a person’s faith or culture.
• do all it can to be sensitive to young people’s faiths and cultures.
I think these are great principles which should undergird all youth work and hope that organisations will support this.
During the day I had 2 opposing experiences that both excited and frustrated me. In the morning two people on the panel challeneged me positively ‘n my thinking. Aviva Dautch, of the Board of Deputies of Britsh Jews (amongst many other things) challenged whether we are a tolerant or a pluralistic society as, she felt, we interchange the terms in society.
Aviva suggested that a tolerant society is one that ‘tolerates’ faith differences withb the expectation that these faith differences will be restrained and be kept to a minimum. A pluralistic society on the other hand acknowledges that who you are makes a difference to society as your faith affects your identity and so cannot really be kept to a minimum, but rather needs to be embraced.
I sat and wondered what would Jesus wish to encourage. Of course, it is an impossible question to answer, but ‘to tolerate’ or ‘to embrace’ that is the question. Ethically, and on reading of scripture, tolerate is not a word that seems to fit.
Joy Madeiros of Oasis and Faithworks suggested that although society gets ‘religion’ it does not get ‘faith’. Madeiros stated that our identity influences inclusion; if we do not know what makes us distinctive and accept that how are we able to accept others? ‘Knowing our own identity is the root of inclusion’
Again, it was great to hear this because it means we should not dumb down who we are, but be distinctive in a loving and respectful way. Being who you are with integrity is the only way to achieve community of mutual love and respect.
During the afternoon I was in a group with a youth worker with a different way of working. That is great and fine and adds to diversity but I struggled with this, tradtional ‘professional’ view of youth work which was saying that we should not share anything of ourselves with young people so that we did not place any value, and so pressurem on a particular behaviour. I find this view simply ridiculous.
I am so tired of the view that we can influence young people to copy us. The belief that because I have a certain faith or belong to a certain political party will cause a young personto adopt that for themselves is just not real. This value-less style of youth work is all take from the youth worker with the young person expected to offer information but receive nothing in return. That is not building relationship or earning trust, that is clinical, cold information gathering and moving on.
If we believe we need to develop relationship and trust, that means we need to invest more than a program done to our young people; we need to invest our lives, not in an abuisve way that says ‘I am right and you should do the same’ but in a way that shows we do not live in a vlaue-less vacuum but that things do matter. Surely our role is to develop young people, which means we are to discuss, to encourage and YES to challenge!
I’m on a rant … I’ll stop and listen for any comments!