Who would have thought that nine months could go by so quickly! It seems like only yesterday that Rachel Silveira and I were discussing her hand over to me, and now, well, now the roles are reversed and come early September Rachel will be back in post as Deputy Director.
One of the things that I was responsible for while in post was collating our latest Annual Report which will shortly be with the Charity Commission, and rather than rehashing the highlights featured in that report, I thought it would be nice idea to share with you some of my personal highlights of the last nine months. So, in no particular order here come my top five as not featured in the Annual Report. Continue reading
Remarks made at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Conference on “Preventing Violent Extremism: How Freedom of Religion or Belief can help”
20 October, 2016
Thank you…. Sue Breeze, Baroness Anelay team at the FCO….
Last month I was fortunate to be a delegate at the seventh annual United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Global Forum having been selected to share my reflections of the UNAOC Fellowship programme of which I am an alum and you can read about my travels at my blog, here. The Global Forum is an annual event which brings together individuals, organisations, Government Officials and academics working on questions of Intercultural dialogue for three days of meetings, workshops and discussions. If nothing else, it is a fascinating opportunity to gauge where the sector is up to and to reflect on the place of 3FF in the sector. Continue reading
I am sitting in Istanbul airport sipping cherry juice (from a can, nothing too exotic or decedent), waiting for my connecting flight to Baku. It should be leaving in about two hours.
I am on my way to the grandly named Baku Forum which is an initiative of the UNAOC (it’s the seventh of these jamborees for those who are interested).
“It’s a condition of the times, this compulsion to hear how it stands with the world, and be joined to the generality, to a community of anxiety. The habit’s grown stronger these past two years; a different scale of news value has been set by monstrous and spectacular scenes. The possibility of their recurrence is one thread that binds the days. The government’s counsel – that an attack in a European or American city is an inevitability – isn’t only a disclaimer of responsibility, it’s a heady promise … Just as the hospitals have their crisis plans, so the television networks stand ready to deliver, and their audiences wait. Bigger, grosser next time. Please don’t let it happen. But let me see it all the same, as it’s happening and from every angle, and let me be among the first to know.”
Saturday, Ian McEwan
Friday was the end of my second week since taking up the post of Deputy Director; it had been a long and busy week – attending planning meetings for our Arts and Culture programme, strategy sessions with the team, writing funding proposals for new work, in many ways a typical week. By the time I went to sleep that evening though it was becoming clear that the week was anything other than typical. Continue reading
I had no expectations for Qatar, which was lucky because whatever expectations I might have had were nowhere near the actual level of bizarreness of the society which I found.
As a group we had joked about being described as “emerging young leaders” so it is possible to understand the smiles on our faces as we were greeted off the plane by representatives of the Qatari government and ushered through immigration via a diplomatic channel! From there it got progressively odder: whether it was observing the extreme disparity in wealth between local Qataris and the migrant workers building sky scrappers or tending the immaculate parks and open spaces, or the finding out about the system of allowances to which Qataris have access, Qatar is a weird place.
For instance, for every Qatari, there are nine foreigners in the country (and this extends to all levels of government, the Chief Advisor to the Minister of Development with whom we met is an affable Scotsman who has been living in Qatar for nearly seven years without any chance of ever acquiring citizenship); for instance, all Qatari water (barring a small amount from rainfall which is squandered) is produced in desalination plants where the condensates from the desalination process are pumped back into the Gulf leading to a future salinization crisis in the Gulf; for instance, water is three times more expensive than petrol. Or, what felt to me like almost a mania to create a cultural heritage (see Ketara for instance, a cross between a cultural centre and a destination for the soon to arrive cruiseliner trade).
However, in the midst of all this, there were chinks of individuality and possibilities for human contact. One such moment came for me on the last night in Qatar. We were being hosted by the Diplomatic Club(!) at a dinner with young Qataris. These were not young people as I would normally understand them, for instance, the young man I was sat next to was a member of the Moroccan royal family. However, the young man opposite came from a “normal” family and over dinner we spoke about all kinds of things: from his childhood memories of hunting rabbits on land which is now dominated by high-rise apartment blocks, to the tales that mothers tell their children about evil donkeys to stop them from going out in the midday sun, to the importance of poetry in the culture of the Gulf. Suddenly, there was contact.