The 2011 Census recorded that almost a third of Oxford’s citizens didn’t have a religion.
Yet we humanists are still largely treated by the establishment as little more than a fringe organisation and, at best, only mentioned as a tag-on to the well-known phrase “All Faiths (and none)”.
Fortunately, the tag-on has at least enabled us to be given as much status over the past 2 years as other world religions during the annual [essentially Christian] Remembrance Sunday services.
But few of you, I suspect, feel that this recognition is sufficient recognition for the over 30% of all local people we – in many ways are representative of. Hence the topic for this month’s Sunday Discussion.
Oxford’s church-going-folk were, I suspect, largely responsible both for the creation of the all-faiths-welcome, OCF [Oxford Council of Faiths] and (later) for supporting the Muslim look-alike The Oxford Foundation [TOF].
But, whether or not I’m correct, Oxford’s city worthies now have access to two relatively enlightened bodies of opinion in favour of inter-religious co-operation.
And, it was partly with the help of these bodies that we Humanists were recently welcomed to play a key role within the annual Remembrance Sunday service. Indeed, immediately following last November’s Remembrance Service Tim Stevenson, Oxfordshire’s Lord Lieutenant (and the queen’s official representative within Oxfordshire) approached me personally with the words “All Faiths and None”, before inviting me to a multi-faith peace initiative then being promoted by both the above multi-faith organisations.
“So far so good”, I hope you’ll agree – even though, to the theorists among us, there’s something fundamentally wrong with us rationalists appearing to join the flocks of those who believe in the supernatural.
But, where do we go next, please?
[E.g. should we try to persuade the two bodies to include people like us who have rejected faith as the basis for our own ethical lives and, if so, what change of wording might be acceptable?] And this is what I’d like us to discuss during this coming Sunday morning’s Discussion session. JDW.
- The aims of the OCF – as detailed within the first two and fifth bullet points on the Home Page of their website [see below +http://oxcof.org.uk/], clearly put a lot of emphasis on the “faith” aspects of interfaith activities – though the third and fourth bullet points [and most of the others] can also be interpreted as inviting non-faith organisations like ours to seek areas of common concern and co-operation.
- By the end of the meeting we had agreed that, though it may be worthwhile for OxHums to explore the possibilities that might arise via an OxHums <-> OCF [Oxford Council of Faiths] interaction, the outcome may not, in reality, be at all fruitful. [N.B. We scarcely even mentioned TOF.]
- So, JDW plans to approach Penny Faust [currently Chair of OCF] asking if it would be all right for him to attend their next AGM as an individual local humanist: he‘s appreciated the co-operation that has taken place over recent years between local humanists and both the OCF and TOF – and now feels he’d like to know rather more about Oxfordshire’s two main interfaith organisations and, perhaps, explore the possibility of taking this informal co-operation a little further.
- JDW’s approach to Penny F will be as a longstanding member of the British Humanist Association rather than as OxHums Chair.Further, as the OCF’s AGM (which will probably be held before August 2015, as per Section #7 within the Constitution Page of their website, http://oxcof.org.uk/?page_id=3), it makes sense to contact Penny F without delay.
- JDW also promised to keep all OxHums committee members abreast of developments + everyone else involved in the June 28th Sunday’s Discussion [Martin, Dane and Harry + Elaine lever, Graham Pierce and John Wells, who’d shared their own thoughts about the topic whilst sending email apologies for their inability to join the discussion in person] – and of informing all our other members at appropriate intervals.
- JDW’s draft email to Penny F will follow within the next few days.
Aims and Objects of the Oxford Council of Faiths
- To promote good relations and respect between people of different faith communities in Oxford.
- To foster friendship trust and mutual understanding between peoples of all faiths and to improve communication links between the faiths communities.
- To liaise with social and civic organisations in order to receive their concerns, and to disseminate information to members of the Council on their behalf as appropriate.
- Encourage social activity and disseminate information about interfaith activities to people of all ages in the local community.
- To consult and to co-operate in religious, racial and social issues and other matters of material concern and speak out when appropriate.
- To promote projects, meetings and events whereby faiths can inform people of all ages in the local community about their beliefs and traditions.
- To work together against prejudice of all kinds and to seek solutions of problems experienced by local faith communities in the practice of their religion.
- To raise funds by means, and for causes, agreed by the Council.