New DIFA Interview - Liverpool

Author: Kat Brealey

Date: 03 March 2016

In December 2015, Kat Brealey travelled to Liverpool to meet recently-appointed Diocesan Interfaith Adviser, Nadine Daniel. Being in Liverpool was an opportunity to see some of the work Nadine is involved in, as well as hear about her background and passions. Nadine is based at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral - usually in the offices, but occasionally dangling from a rope as seen in this photo of a charity abseil!

Apart from being diocesan interfaith adviser, what is your day to day role?

In October 2012 I was asked to undertake research into the prevalence of food poverty in Liverpool and specifically if we should open a foodbank at Liverpool Cathedral.  From that developed Hope+, a multi faith community outreach anti poverty programme. I am now the Project Manager for Hope+.

How did you get involved in interfaith work? How have you been involved in it over the years? 

Growing up, Liverpool was still a city divided along sectarian fault lines. It is quite difficult to describe to someone not raised here quite how revolutionary the ecumenical work of ++Derek Warlock and +David Sheppard was. As a result I became involved in interfaith work via ecumenism, working on the Papal visit of St John-Paul II in 1982 as part of my gap year. Liverpool has an unusual demographic insofar as it has many small, but very long established ethnic and faith communities, often living and working side by side. My first interfaith work was chairing a working group to raise awareness within the legal system (Police, Courts, and Probation etc.) on Merseyside. This included everything from ensuring that court staff treated sacred texts and artefacts correctly, to faith based dietary requirements for detainees, jurors, even judges.  Whilst at the Bar, I remained involved in provision of interfaith information and even took a course in Shari’a. Working in Hope+ I am actively engaged in practical interfaith work on a daily basis, and am a member of the Merseyside Council of Faiths. From this work I was appointed DIFA and Chair of PEN in June 2015.

In your diocese, what are some of the key issues related to interfaith engagement?

As indicated above, whilst we have a large number of faith groups, they have historically been quite small. As a result many parts of the Diocese have until very recently remained both monochrome and monocultural; this has resulted in us only having ten PEN parishes in the diocese, and those within a five mile radius of each other.  Thus most interfaith work has been concentrated on inner city Liverpool, with some small local initiatives such as the Warrington Council of Faiths.  Although interfaith relationships have been good, the emphasis has been more on strengthening multi ethnic community cohesion than dedicated interfaith work.

This pattern has changed significantly within the last decade. Significant developments in global movement have led to Liverpool becoming a major centre for asylum seeker dispersal.  This has put all the faith groups under significant pressure to provide support, but has also seen the arrival of people of other faiths in areas where there had previously been none.  Issues such as Iranian conversion to Christianity, which is a significant number and rising, have been handled by face to face dialogue in the Council of Faiths. Lack of education on other faiths, especially Islam, is leading to a small but significant rise in faith based hate crime.  

As interfaith adviser, what are the main things you’ve found yourself doing so far?

As there hasn’t been a dedicated interfaith adviser for a while, it has been a journey of discovery for everyone in discerning quite what is required.  So far the role seems to be divided into a number of categories:

  • Advising the Bishop and, since the RC Archdiocese doesn’t have an interfaith adviser, the Archbishop as well, especially on issues arising from the current refugee crisis
  • Being invited to a number of churches and schools to discuss how to interact and work with other faiths.  This can range from questions such as is it ok to host a mother and baby group where the women are mostly Muslim, to how can we have safe conversations about each other’s faith?
  • Assisting the Diocesan Education department to provide information on interfaith challenges and opportunities to church schools.
  • Developing an ecumenical group to look at how we can work across all faiths to provide welcome, support, and hospitality to all the asylum seekers and refugees that are arriving in the Diocese. Currently we are working to produce a number of booklets to raise awareness in churches of the major issues, together with web based resources contributed to by all the major (and some minor) faiths.
  • Being involved in a number of interfaith awareness days, organised by the three Abrahamic faiths but involving many others too

What is it about the interfaith adviser role that excites you?

Meeting people. Whether that is trying to enable people to share the sameness rather than the otherness of their faiths, helping to equip people with the knowledge to reach out and start conversations, or listening and learning from others; it is a huge privilege to simply talk faith with people of faith, and work together.  

 

 

 

Nadine Daniel