Our #Interfaith21 list shines a light

Justin Cohen’s idea to bring together media outlets working in our three Abrahamic faiths to create a list of young interfaith leaders set an inspirational challenge.

Over a number of months Justin, the Jewish News’ news editor, brought together a team. The editor of Church Times offered wisdom and calmness and the feeling of the involvement of a pillar of the establishment.

Walking into their offices shared with Hymns Ancient and Modern gave a sense of gravitas. The creative director at British Muslim TV brought the different focus of his community and also focused on how it would work on TV.

Michael Wakelin from Co-Exist, with his BBC experience in religious affairs, shaped the concept with Justin and it was great to add the Faith & Belief Forum as a partner too.

Getting nominations in from such a wide community of communities was a real challenge.

All involved pushed in their communities but at times it felt there were so many incredible stories out there and had we made enough contact to hear about them and see nominations. Maybe the challenge is to repeat this and see.

The partners worked hard to bring together a set of judges and to inform them we got the judges, the partners and also a large number of interfaith activists to vote.

Incredibly, virtually everyone we asked to vote did and they took on the task and really delved into the nominations.

The meeting of the judging panel at Central Hall, Westminster, courtesy of the president of the Methodist Conference, was one of the most daunting meetings I have ever had the honour of chairing.

How could one compare someone in their early 20s who was a volunteer with a seasoned paid professional? How could one compare specialist interfaith professionals with clergy who made interfaith part of their ministry and activism?

Then there was the always difficult challenge of a balance of gender, geography, denomination, age, role and the votes received and the stories told through the nominations.

The care and thought of the judges to create the right list was gentle yet firm. looking to balance so many criteria.

One of the challenges that effected communities differently was that while the Jewish and Muslim list of nominations spreads throughout the age range, the Christian list was more skewed to an older age group.

For the future, whether this was modesty or structural, it is a challenge for our communities.

Overall, we created a list of 21 incredible young interfaith activists and a longer list of 100 nominees.

The great challenge to our communities is to bring them together often and regularly and let them build cohesion, learning and partnership across British Jews, Muslims and Christians.

  • Andrew Gilbert, Chair of judging panel

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About the Author
Andrew Gilbert is a London Jewish Forum Trustee
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