The United Kingdom Women of Faith Network UKWFN was launched with high‐level support at the House of Lords in London earlier this year. UKWFN is an affiliated organisation of ECRL – Religions for peace. “Religions for peace is grateful for and proud of the leadership of women of faith. Just as women embrace their respective faiths to care for all, so all in RfP are united in restoring the dignity of women whenever it is abused”, thus RfP secretary general Dr. William F. Vendley.
Baroness Uddin hosted a packed auditorium, with Members of Parliament and representatives from diverse international, national and local religious and multi-religious organisations. Written support was welcomed from the Prime Minister’s office; the Secretary of State for Education and Minister for women and equalities, Right Honorable Nicky Morgan; and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
“Developing the Women of Faith network is exceptionally urgent and of fundamental importance,” Professor Ursula King, Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies at Bristol University stressed. “All our traditions have generations of women of wisdom and understanding whom we can turn to as role models, and peace campaigning is at the heart of the modern women’s movement.”
Jehangir Sarosh, Secretary General of the European Council of Religious Leaders, spoke of the many ways Religions for Peace works to strengthen women as peace builders and keepers. “In our Western rights-oriented world, we must not forget the balance of responsibility towards our neighbours.”
The Archduchess of Austria and Princess of Tuscany, Camilla Habsburg-Lotheringen, drew attention to the family unit as the primary locus for societal wellbeing. Women hold the keys to every level, from individual family to society at large, and yet today’s values pull them in every direction and threaten the very fabric of our communities.
Jenny Kartupelis, Strategy and Development Officer at the World Congress of Faiths, called on Women of Faith to campaign for greater recognition of the vital roles women play day to day in promoting spiritual wellbeing and human flourishing.
Ravinder Kaur Kijjar, Chair of the UK Women of Faith Network and International Coordinating committee member on Religions for Peace Global Women of Faith Network, spoke about the reality for many women whose access to basic human rights and to public office are still curtailed despite UN focus on sustainable development goals. 45% of women in the UK experience some form of physical or sexual abuse. “If we don’t value women, and turn a blind eye to ongoing violence towards them, we can never have peace in our world.”
A lively question and answer session followed, including comments from Religions for Peace Co-President, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh; Harriet Crabtree, Director of the Interfaith Network; Kiran Bali, CEO of United Religions Initiative UK; Lady Gilda Levy, co-founder of the Women’s Interfaith Network; Alison Judd, Area President of Methodist Women in Britain; Sister Maureen Goodman from the Brahma Kumaris, Ella Matheson, Founding Director of Peace in the City and trustee of the Tutu Foundation UK; Jean Dalgleish of the Westminster Institute for Ethics and Human Values. The meeting closed with high aspirations and encouragement for the future of the women of faith in the UK.