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Welcome to Connected, the MIF blog and the place where we share our news, thoughts and inspiration.

How do you communicate the divine? LIVE

One World Many Faiths

The first in a series of One World Many Faiths events join WNO Artistic Director David Pountney, alongside academic and broadcaster Mona Siddiqui on the eve of the opening night of Schoenberg’s masterpiece, Moses und Aron at the Wales Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Both discuss the opera’s central theme – the inadequacy of language when communicating the absolutely spiritual.

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One World Many Faiths

One World Many Faiths

How important is faith in Britain today? Do we live in a godless society? Is religion an instrument of good or ill? Can language and image truly communicate the idea of God?

The Maimonides Interfaith Foundation and the Welsh National Opera have teamed up to create a series of provocative and interactive events exploring these and other questions about faith today. WNO’s Faith season of operas is the perfect springboard for an exploration of a subject which touches all our lives regardless of our beliefs. Get involved in the debate this summer with leading figures from religious and cultural life.

Full list of events.

Interfaith Explorers Teacher workshops coming soon!

Interfaith Explorers logo

April sees the start of the Interfaith Explorers Teacher workshops, with events being held in Newcastle, Bradford, London, Leeds, Manchester, followed by Leicester, Coventry and Birmingham after SATs are done.   

Offering teachers an opportunity to learn more about the resource, meet the people behind the project and contribute to ongoing  improvements as well as the future direction of Interfaith Explorers, through joining our network of teacher ambassadors!

Teachers will also have an opportunity to explore the resource online and discover ways in which it can be used to encourage better understanding and respect between pupils of different backgrounds and faiths.  Lasting around an hour, all workshops are free for teachers to attend and are conveniently organised in local schools.

Our thanks to our host schools – and if you have already booked to attend we are really looking forward to meeting with you!  For those teachers who are interested in attending, we have a limited number of places left for this week’s workshops so contact interfaithexplorers@education.co.uk to get booked on!

We hope to see you at a venue near you soon.

Global poll of Catholics finds church divided over doctrine

Pope Francis

A poll commissioned by the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision of more than 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries reveals a church dramatically divided: between the developing world in Africa and Asia, which closely follows the doctrine on a range of issues; and Western countries in Europe, North America and parts of Latin America, which strongly support practices that the church teaches are immoral.

The widespread disagreement with Catholic doctrine on abortion and contraception and the hemispheric chasm lay bare the challenge for Pope Francis’s year-old papacy and the unity it has engendered.

Download Univision poll

‘Quenelle’, football and the resurgence of ugly anti-Semitism

Nicolas Anelka's Quenella

The ‘quenelle’ is a part-anti-Semitic, part-obscene hand gesture that has spread across France, and has sparked controversy in England since West Bromwich footballer, Nicolas Anelka, chose the Premier League as a perfect location to demonstrate it.
The gesture is formed by pointing one arm down while touching the shoulder with the other arm, and gained notoriety following its repeated use by French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala during his shows.

Dieudonné and many of his admirers, ranging from the far left to the far right, insist that it is merely an “anti-establishment gesture”, surviving from his “anti-Zionist” campaign in 2009. However, critics say that it is a calculated, anti-Semitic provocation.

The president of the French league against racism and anti-Semitism, Alain Jakubowicz, says that the gesture signifies “the sodomisation of victims of the Holocaust”. Dieudonné has started a legal action against Mr Jakubowicz for libel.

Jean-Yves Camus, a French academic who studies the extreme right, says the ‘quenelle’ has become a “badge of identity, especially among the young, but it is doubtful that all of them understand its true meaning”.

Whatever the understanding, the quenelle is a sign of anti-Semitic resurgence.

http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/brendan-simms-antisemitism-is-an-international-threat-once-again-9087757.html

The World has lost a great giant

Nelson Mandela

South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95.
Mr Mandela led South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison for his political activities.
Though he was in power for only five years, Mandela was a figure of enormous moral influence the world over – a symbol of revolution, resistance and triumph over racial segregation.
He inspired a generation of activists, celebrities and world leaders star-struck, won the Nobel Peace Prize and raised millions for humanitarian causes.

In words of President Barack Obama, our thanks to the people of South Africa, ‘The world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us’. Let’s just make sure we sustain his legacy.

Teachers! Here comes the Interfaith Challenge 2013!

Interfaith Week Challenge

As Interfaith Week approaches, primary schools are being invited to get involved by taking up the Interfaith Challenge!

During the week, from 17-23 November, Interfaith Explorers is setting a challenge to all teachers to see how many Taster Activities on the website they can get their pupils to do as part of a national primary schools Interfaith Week Challenge.

There are six activities in total to try and many, such as, Know Your Lemons, can be used across any year groups.

The ‘Know Your Lemons’ activity aims to teach pupils about challenging stereotypes, by demonstrating that while at first sight things may appear the same, a closer look reveals differences.

A section of Teacher Information and Guidance on the website provides advice on delivering the materials in the classroom

Once the activities have been tried there are certificates to download. Feedback forms to complete – and schools can share their photos as they celebrating Interfaith Week. Enjoy your Interfaith Challenge!

For more details see the website

More than half of schools fail pupils on religious education

Ofsted

A damning report published today by the schools inspectorate, Ofsted, highlights how schools and the government have failed to focus effectively on religious education.

The report, ‘Religious education: realising the potential’, finds low standards; weak teaching; a confused sense of purpose of what religious education is about; training gaps; and weaknesses in the way religious education is examined. It also highlights how six out of ten schools examined on the quality of their religious education teaching, are failing to realise the subject’s full potential.

Religious education makes an important contribution to pupils’ development, both personal and academic. It does so by promoting respect and empathy, which are increasingly important in an ever more globalised and multicultural 21st century. While inspectors identified examples of good practice they found that six out of ten schools examined in this report failed to realise the subject’s full potential.

Among the recommendations, Ofsted says there is an urgent need for the government to help teachers by clarifying the purpose and aims of religious education, and to promote these through lucid guidance.

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/religious-education-realising-potential

Interfaith Explorers helps children value cultural diversity & respect

Young Interfaith Explorers

The Foundation’s Interfaith Explorers initiative is helping primary school pupils in Peterborough learn the value of cultural diversity and respect for others.

Some 22 languages are represented at the growing Discovery Primary School and many of the 620 pupils are from a Muslim or Jewish background. The growing diversity at the school reflects an influx of new migrant communities drawn to the city in recent years.

With that in mind, one of the school’s key objectives is helping pupils to respect and value religious and cultural diversity, which is why they have found the UNESCO supported resource so valuable.

Headteacher Anne Hampson says ‘With Interfaith Explorers, I really like their angle that, ok, we may all have a different religion, but we also have a tremendous number of things in common’.

Never fear – the Burka Avenger is here!

Burka Avenger

Fabulous, Fabulous, Fabulous – we really love this! Inventive animated action-comedy, with a serious and social purpose edge. Due to debut on Pakistan television this month, it centers on the trials and tribulations of female superhero ‘Burka Avenger’, who uses books and pens against bad guys trying to shut the girls’ school where she works.

Pakistan’s first caped crusader is a burka-clad superhero fighting school-hating baddies by night and moonlighting as a gentle, compassionate schoolteacher by day.

Featuring guest appearances and original songs from some of the biggest musical acts from across South Asia, including Ali Zafar, Haroon, Ali Azmat, Josh and many others; it is set to cause a stir in a country where female literacy is estimated to stand at 12% and where international focus on the Taliban remains, following the attack on Malala Yousafzai as part of a concerted and devastating campaign which has seen hundreds of girls’ schools blown up in the north-west.

While the cartoon series is welcomed by many some women right activists question the use of the burka on the superhero character due to sensitivities around religious extremism and the garment’s strong association with the suppression of women.

http://www.burkaavenger.com