A multi-faith friendship group called, Women Together, has received a prestigious award from the Three Faiths Forum for London and the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London’s Council on Faith.
Founded by Rev Ann Norman, Erith Deanery Community Deacon and Associate Minister at Christ Church Erith (Bromley & Bexley), the group of Christian and Muslim Women who meet each month for coffee and a chat, received their award in recognition of their role in creating a sense of belonging, togetherness and inclusion among London’s diverse communities.
Ann said they were surprised and delighted to receive their award, and that she had been prompted to begin the group after following the story of the young girls from the East-End of London who ran away to join ISIS: “I just wanted to give their mothers a hug. I thought a friendship group could bring people together and break down barriers. This is really starting to happen, and it can only help to build healthy communities.”
The group is one primarily of support and friendship, not an Interfaith Forum, but in their conversations, Ann says they get to hear about the realities of being a woman of faith in Britain today: “Inter-faith Forums are about belief – Women Together is more about the cultural and social aspects of living out that faith in daily life.
“We hear about the pains and pleasures of our different communities, such as the kidnapping of children in Afghanistan, wearing the Hajib, fears for teenagers going to British universities, sickness, bullying at school, wedding customs, holidays, exam results and family parties – ordinary life!”
Ann explains that they were therefore keen to make sure they didn’t meet in a church or a mosque: “We meet as friends would normally meet, in pleasant surroundings like cafes.
“We were aware that many people often stay in their ethnic and religious groups, and so we felt it important to be seen to occupying a public space together. The only cost involved is that we each buy our own coffee!”
Membership of the group is by invitation, with most members inviting women from their own faith tradition. The women come from a number of Christian churches and denominations, as well as mosques and nationalities; including Afghani, Bangladeshi, Barbadian, British, Indian Jamaican, Nigerian, Pakistani and Sudanese.
In 2018 it is hoped that women from other faith communities will join in. Other groups are being planned starting with a Saturday Group.
The Three Faiths Forum award ceremony took place at the Royal Society of Medicine Headquarters in Greater London, where Ann was joined in receiving the award with fellow Women Together members, Sylvia Maclean and Khalida Shah.
With thanks to Deacon Ann Norman of Rochester diocese for this news.