LIFE stands for Local Initiative for Faith and the Environment.

The pilot of this project was conceived in July 2009 in the Borough of Lambeth as a bridge between faith-based networks and environmental action, most particularly the local Transition Town network. The pilot was funded by Lambeth Council’s Green Community Champions and  supported by the Muslim Sisters Jamaat, Streatham Quaker Meeting House, Transition Town Brixton and the Christian Muslim Forum.

The hope for LIFE is that such bridge-building serves to bring people together around two of the most vital pillars of peace-building in society today: climate change and inter-faith dialogue.

The aim is to promote greater mutual awareness of local ecology, global climate change and the role multi-faith groups can play in nurturing sustainable living on a local and regional level.

Awareness about the global dilemma begins with the local. Creating a holistic response to changes in the earth’s environment and economy provides a common ground for people from different backgrounds to work together to a positive end. It transcends fixed beliefs and renews faith in life itself.

LIFE hopes to provide intimate, open, creative spaces for dialogue about the issues and practical on-the-ground application that is fun, inclusive and offers opportunity for sharing of skills and time for reflection. For more information please contact me.

Introducing the (How to Survive) LIFE Pack – LIFE as a Resource – Click this link to download a copy: LIFE Jacket

The growing interest and flourishing community activity around local responses to climate change (most notably the Transition Town movement) was recognised by those most actively involved to be failing in its capacity to filter down to those most likely to be affected by economic and environmental change. In Lambeth, this most usually means minority faith and ethnic communities.

The LIFE Project has been growing out of a two-way concern: Firstly that the essential message of groups such as Transition Town Brixton, and information about how to live more sustainably were not being accessed by those for whom their ethnic grouping (cultural orientation and language) or religious affiliation (behavioural and social orientation) found them somewhat left out. Or, from another perspective, self-contained and protected from involvement in community activism. And secondly that any movement towards unified action that lacked the diverse representation of cultures and ethnicities of a local community, and the threads of religious inclinations, spiritual practices, social behaviours and belief systems that are naturally woven into the tapestry of diversity, was lacking some shades to its rainbow.

To follow the tapestry analogy, a meeting place was therefore needed that would shed new light onto the whole carpet: What has emerging environmentalism got to say about faith and its assumptions about life? And what message might faith, in its age-old rituals and language, and its different forms of renewal, bring to what is becoming the great motivating factor of modern life; how to live as human beings in harmony with a planet that is suffering to such an extent?

In the case of LIFE, this took the form of groups of women of different faiths gathering with women involved in environmental activism once a month, for eighteen months, to learn from each other. The questions we carried to these gatherings were, ‘Where does the idea of faith and our relationship with our environment come together? Where is this meeting point a place of mutual benefit (i.e. my faith offers me a more healthy window through which to view the world, care for the planet and my sense of belonging and identity within it)? And where can ideas about faith and its surrounding theologies and practices place it at logger-heads with the primary call of contemporary human-kind; to take full and personal responsibility for the way we lead our lives? Equally, where might faith and spiritual insight offer a balm and a refuge for those who have exhausted their own resources in finding the best way forward?

After almost two years of capacity-building and friendship-creating, where issues to do with everything from home-energy, recycling and reuse of discarded materials for making useful and beautiful items were knitted together with conversations on universal symbols of faith, explorations into the physicality and psychology of belonging and identity, non-violent communication and Deep Ecology, LIFE was looking for its next incarnation. Because of the felt need for LIFE to filter down from one-off gatherings into the communities that needed to explore for themselves, the idea of the (How to Survive) LIFE Pack was formed.

The LIFE Pack is an inter-changeable series of resource sheets, using the framework of the tried and tested LIFE events as a template, to enable LIFE hubs to take root in and be run by local people. The sheets are assembled in the colourful LIFE Jackets, folders made out of old carrier bags by local artist Maggie Winnall. They offer suggestions for how either individuals or existing community groups can start hosting LIFE gatherings; safe spaces where women’s ideas, passions and skills can be expressed alongside their fears, loneliness, despair; all brought to the table under the banner of ‘this is LIFE: with faith and learning from each other, we can make a difference.’

If you’d be interested in starting up a LIFE group in your community, please get in touch. You can then be sent a LIFE Pack by email, and you can then contact a LIFE facilitator to come and visit your group, bringing their support, suggestions, a listening ear and a LIFE Jacket…so you can set sail!

Contact details:

• For the LIFE group in Lambeth:
Saadat Yusuf – saadat_yusuf@yahoo.co.uk / 07939 325 032
Sue Sheehan – ssheehan@lambeth.gov.uk / 020 7926 7672
Tini Brodie – tini.brodie@btinternet.com / 020 8673 3365

• For groups specific to Christian-Muslim relationship-building:
The Christian Muslim Forum, 70 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL
Email: Forum Director, Julian Bond – Julian@christianmuslimforum.org
Telephone: 020 7420 0444

• For general information about LIFE and/or help in seeding a LIFE Project in your local community:
Rebecca Brewin – rebecca@handtoearth.net / 07896 936 625

Rebecca Brewin
February 2011

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