Selflessness rewarded: London’s faith communities are honoured

Image credit: Faith and Belief Forum

By Sorcha Connell

Five hundred people attended the fourth annual London Faith & Belief Community Awards ceremony, when cash prizes were awarded to 40 diverse groups that have helped their communities in the capital.

The awards, held online this year, are in recognition of seven areas of work, including interfaith relations, youth work, health and wellbeing. This year, a special award was made for response to Covid-19.

More than 100 projects were considered, whittled down to 40 award winners, 58 recognised projects and four outstanding individuals, guided by a panel chaired by Bushra Nasir, chief executive of the Drapers Multi Academy Trust.

The 40 winners, which each received £500, included the National Cricket League, the Association of Black Humanists, the Naz and Matt Foundation, which tackles LBGTQ+ issues, Westminster Foodbank, the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association Covid-19 helpline, and the West London Buddhist Centre.

This lively event had recorded performances from the London Humanist Choir and the Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band.

Categories were announced by presenters including Baroness Benjamin, Leon Kamhi, Sheila Gewolb, and the Rev Richard Coles.

The host, the Rev Nims Obunge, who runs the Peace Alliance, kept the ceremony’s mood buoyant as he shared choice quotes from the comments section, which was flooded with attendees from all over the world.

Mr Coles said: “The work of London’s faith and belief communities plays an important role in the lives of so many people, and I’m delighted to see it recognised in this way. These awards highlight the many ways our diversity can be our strength, and that our different communities are a force for good.”

Lady Benjamin said: “It’s fantastic to see and hear about so many people motivated by their faiths and beliefs to serve their communities and help those around them. This vital work is not celebrated enough, and these awards shine a much-deserved light on these local heroes.”

The awards ceremony is funded by the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London’s Council on Faith. The Lord Lieutenant, Sir Ken Olisa, said: “What you do is so important because you’ve shown that faith isn’t selfish. There are many organisations here tonight, though faith-based, that are helping those not of their faith, who help those in need, those who are marginalised, and that is the power of not being selfish. Faith teaches us not to be selfish.”

Phil Champain, director of the forum, said: “London’s faith and belief groups play a crucial and often overlooked role in supporting their communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has left many people in need of additional support, which means that the services these groups provide and their role in helping people stay connected has been even more important than before.”

Since its inception in 1997, the forum’s programmes reach more than 1,600 people a year in the UK and Middle East, working in schools, hospitals, workplaces and wider communities.

The forum, which believes that intolerance has no place in our communities and that diversity adds value, has recently been granted £180,000 by the government for social cohesion projects in Barking and Dagenham and Birmingham.

The awards ceremony can be viewed here.