The Foundation Three Years On - Highlights from the 2009 - 10 Annual Report

Foundation Update

The Foundation Three Years On - Highlights from the 2009 - 10 Annual Report

25 Jan 2011

The cycle of submitting Annual Reports means it is published when it's already out of date. So this report gives you a good snap-shot of May 2009 to the end of April 2010. I'm conscious of how much has changed in the 9 months following - let me try to bring you a little up to date.

Tony Blair at the Beijing Forum held at Peking University Reading the Annual Report alongside those of the three previous years, highlights whereas in April 2009 we had two universities in our Faith and Globalisation Initiative, by April 2010 there were six: Yale, National University of Singapore, McGill, Durham, Monterrey Tech in Mexico, and the University of Western Australia. And today there are eight: Peking University and the University of Sierra Leone have joined – with more partnerships under negotiation.

Why build these partnerships? We're convinced that no-one can truly understand today's world unless they know more about how religion motivates and shapes societies for good and for ill. Universities on every continent help us analyse these important phenomena from a range of intellectual and geographical perspectives. Faith & Globalization Initiative member universities work with us to create multi-disciplinary courses, undertake research and organise public events to better understand the role of religion in the world.

Our high school programme shows a similar pattern of growth: in April 2008 we worked with schools in five countries; in April 2009 it was twelve and now it is 15 countries. This week we meet with Education Ministry officials in another country, who also wish to adopt our techniques and classroom resources to help their young people adapt to a rapidly changing society with the skills to discuss profound religious differences without leading to tension and conflict. Face to Faith students in Jordan video-conference with India

We have seen rapid growth in our work in India and Pakistan, amongst other places. We ran training in interfaith dialogue for teachers from Beirut and Jakarta to San Francisco. We organised a large number of educational video conferences, connecting classrooms across the world, allowing school children to learn about themselves and each other, breaking down stereotypes, generating a positive alternative to conflict and a reason to be optimistic.

In our Faith Act campaign, likewise: our volunteers and supporters came from 27 countries in 2008; by April 2009 we connected with people in 75 countries; and by April last year the network included people from 106 countries. For all, there is a real desire to undertake simple, positive actions, alongside people of different faiths to help tackle global poverty and achieve the MDGs.

Our inaugural Faiths Act Fellows, 2009-2010, finished this summer. The Fellowship brings together 30 outstanding young leaders to build partnerships between people of different faiths to support the MDGs. Young people from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh and humanist backgrounds in the UK, US and Canada were trained and placed in multi-faith pairs within development and religious organisations.

Their achievements included:

• Giving a sermon on malaria at Blackburn Cathedral (the first time a Muslim has spoken at the Cathedral);

• Holding the biggest World Malaria Day event in the UK, at Holy Trinity Brompton Church, London;

• Setting up Congregations Act, involving 50 diverse congregations in Canada who raised funds for malaria bednets; from Halifax on the east coast to the prairie communities of Saskatoon and Manitoba;

• educating 40,000 people on the MDGs; and

• raising over £100,000 for malaria charities, which, with a matched donation from Tony Blair, brought the total funds raised to an impressive £200,000.

We have just received 687 applications for our next cohort of 30 Fellows, which will include young people from India.

Faiths Act Fellows Sean and Pritpal win community interfaith award in Birmingham We yet again found that developing relations

with people of another religion often leads to a deepening of commitment to one's own – alongside respect for the other. Faiths Act Fellow Sean Rose was paired with Pritpal Kaur, a Sikh. As he said:

"As a practicing Catholic, one of the richest experiences for me was being based at a Sikh-ethos community centre, adjacent to a Gurdwara. Again and again, I was reminded of the common call to service...My own faith has been strengthened, and I have felt a greater call to regular prayer. This has occurred not in spite of, but because of my multi-faith relationships."

This work does matter: of that I am increasingly convinced. Those causing religious conflict are small in number, but highly motivated, well organised, and they have catastrophic impact. They have countless millions of dollars behind them. If we want to create a peaceful world we must be more determined, more creative, more practical, and deeply effective. And we need to be funded.

We've tried to raise enough funds to allow significant growth of our charitable activities; to keep our running costs as low as we can; to evaluate all our work so we can make continuous improvements to it; and to plan sensibly for the future. In a tough economic climate, raising money is tough – and I am very grateful to the generous donors who support our work when there are so many other important causes they could have chosen. It shows there really is a positive alternative to hatred and violence.

Faith Shorts winners at BAFTA To help give greater visibility to these hopeful stories, last summer we launched "Faith Shorts", a global film competition providing young people with the opportunity to express their faith through film. Young people without equipment could compete to win flipcams – which we delivered to 100 locations. Entries flooded in from Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Argentina, Canada, Pakistan, UK, New Zealand, Lebanon, USA, Nigeria, Singapore, and the Philippines.

The stories impressed the judging panel: Tony Blair, Jonathan Caplan QC, Hugh Jackman, Anil Kapoor, Amr Khaled , Jet Li, Kishore Lulla, Wendi Murdoch, Natalie Portman, Nik Powell, Queen Rania of Jordan, Rabbi David Rosen, June Sarpong, and Deepak Verma. Winners received their awards at 195 Piccadilly, the home of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in front of 200 high profile guests. We'll take the competition forward again in 2011 in conjunction with Insight Films.

So much of what the Faith Foundation is today, depends on more than the incredibly dedicated staff working from our offices in London, Toronto and our TBFF-US office in New Haven. Our school co-ordinators in India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, USA, Australia, UK, UAE, Lebanon, Jordan, and Canada; the 30 Faiths Act Fellows and the lively volunteer networks they created to undertake a wide range of multi-faith activities; the almost 1,000 students and former students in the seven countries who have studied Faith & Globalisation ... they are all now a core part of what we do. And the supporters and volunteers in 106 countries show by their participation in our Faiths Act campaign that in every corner of the world, there are people who stand up in very practical ways for the values of peace, co-operation, and practical collaboration across religious and cultural lines. My thanks, alongside the thanks of our Patron Tony Blair and our board of trustees, go to them all.

Download the 2009 - 2010 annual report here.

Ruth Turner,

Chief Executive, Tony Blair Faith Foundation