How does faith support activists?
Three graduates of our programmes share how their faith links to their campaigning journeys. Read on to find out how faith supports Claire, Zlakha and Robyn and some of the challenges they face.
Participants of Everyday Activism and the Bootcamp residential often talk passionately about their faith and how it drives their campaigning. I wanted to learn more about this so I spoke to some graduates about how their faith links into their campaigning, and were surprised and humbled by their responses. I learnt that no matter which religion our campaigners follow, their faith gives them inspiration, strength and grounding.
Faith helps our campaigners in very similar and very positive ways regardless of which faith people followed. Bootcamp graduate Claire, who campaigns on greater inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the Catholic Church said that her personal faith and involvement with the church gives her a sense of both community and self. She told us that the community aspect of faith enables her to find the strength to campaign.
Zlakha campaigns against Islamophobia within the press and works to give women and girls from Black Minority Ethnic communities a voice on overcoming issues of violence and abuse. She said that her Islamic faith gives her the strength and inspiration to be strong and firm in her belief that the truth needs to be spoken, no matter how uncomfortable some may find that. Zlakha feels she has a duty to speak out and help others who are oppressed.
I also spoke to Robyn, who campaigns for the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention which is a framework that aims to address violence against women. She said her faith helps her to always hope and believe that the impossible can happen – with God’s help.
It’s very clear to me that these women wear their hearts, and their faiths, on their sleeves with a passion that they use to challenge injustice. Claire said her campaign in the church has advanced the position of trans people nationally and LGBTQ+ people locally, for example, there is now a local, annual mass dedicated to LGBTQ+ people.
Zlakha recently took part in a BBC Look North piece on unreported child abuse with in the Asian community, talking about her own experiences as a child. Many of Zlakha’s acquaintances had a problem with this, but Zlakha passionately told me that it was to ensure the voices of those who have been abused were heard and recognised.
However, faith-inspired campaigning does not come without its struggles. Claire becomes frustrated when she sees ignorance and when change happens at a slow pace. Zlakha has struggled with racism and Islamophobia she has experienced in the media. Robyn finds it challenging when she strongly disagree with what others stand for and how they behave. However, the campaigners have completely bowled me over with their response to their struggles. Claire believes that God loves us all and this belief helps her to deal with her doubts. Zlakha says she has a duty as a Muslim to call out Islamophobia where she sees it. Robyn aims to work in love, with grace and kindness, trying to treat people with respect and honouring the image of God in them.
When asked about what message they would give to others who want to focus on campaigning, with or without a faith, Claire put it brilliantly: ‘You’re doing the right thing and keep on going! In the words of Martin Luther King ‘We shall overcome someday’.’
Thank you Claire, Zlakha and Robyn for your contributions. We wish you all the best for the future!
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