Social Cohesion and Enterprise Through Interfaith Action
Empowerment+ interfaith action groups are communities of people helping each other gain practical life and career skills that focus on more than just finding a job, but on a vocation that is meaningful and fulfilling.
Empowerment+ (plus) is not just about receiving love and help but also about the transformative opportunity to become part of a neighborly faith-inspired community that loves and helps others, including immigrants and refugees.
Empowerment+ has three interconnected elements: Interweave’s Master of Business on the Streets; Launching Leaders; and Self-Reliance Resources including Find a Better Job. All linked by the interfaith resource, My Foundations.
The inspiration for Empowerment+ comes from the famous story about loving our neighbors – The Good Samaritan. Although the Good Samaritan was a foreigner with a foreign religion, his care for the man left to die by the side of the road is the example of love we are called to show to others regardless of their faith or background.
Empowerment+ is being piloted for global rollout at Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy (UK) in collaboration with the al-Furqan Islamic Centre, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and other faith partners. The global project is coordinated by Brian J. Grim, PhD, Visiting Professor, School of Management and Social Sciences, St. Mary’s University, Twickenham/London, and President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF). The Manchester Empowerment+ pilot is directed by RFBF Research Fellow Hinna Parvez (pictured below with former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson).
Because Empowerment+ is staffed by university and community volunteers, it is low cost but has high impact with the potential to scale up globally and equip many of thousands of volunteers to build relationships with many more.
The first component of Empowerment+ is offered in partnership with Launching Leaders, a nonprofit organization helping Millennials (i.e., people reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century) find fulfillment through applying proven principles and spirituality to their everyday lives.
The Launching Leaders Advisory Council and Millennial Advisory Council includes people of a variety of faiths and nationalities who believe in a holistic approach to living – that faith and everyday life need not be separate from one another.
Sir Peter Fahy, the recently-retired Chief of Police in Manchester, was instrumental in introducing Brian Grim to the Catholic Chaplaincy and the Muslim community in Manchester. Sir Peter now directs Retrak, a global charity working to transform highly vulnerable children’s lives, preserve families, empower communities and give each of them a voice.
In the video below, Sir Perter speaks of the need, impact and importance of Empowerment+.
Bishop John Arnold of the Catholic Diocese of Salford, which includes Manchester, has also been an encourager of Empowerment+. In the video below hear Bishop John’s reflections on interfaith Launching Leaders.
Empowerment+ Interfaith Toolkit
The second component of Empowerment+ is an interfaith toolkit containing several 12-unit courses. Find a Better Job is currently being piloted in Manchester (see Table of Contents). Other tracks under preparation include Starting and Growing a Business.
This second component is made possible by a license granted to the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to help produce and distribute an interfaith version of a successful self-reliance and empowerment program they have successfully pioneered worldwide. The LDS version has already helped nearly a million of their own members in all parts of the globe move from poverty and/or economic hardship to living more spiritually and temporally empowered lives.*
A key component of the Empowerment+ interfaith toolkit is the Interfaith My Foundation resource designed to accompany each of the content courses.
Interfaith My Foundation draws on scriptures from multiple faith traditions, including Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and others to address practical — yet spiritual — issues that relate to living a more abundant life. These include the following lessons: 1: The Lord Has the Power to Bless Your Life; 2: How to Manage Money; 3: Being Obedient, Do Right; 4: Use Time Wisely; 5: Work: Take Responsibility; 6: Solve Problems; 7: Become One, Serve Together; 8: Communication: Ask and Listen; 9: Show Integrity; 10: Be Determined; 11: Focus on Learning and Education; and 12: Stay on Task, Grow Spiritually, Become Empowered.
Empowerment+ Religious Freedom Philosophy
RFBF President Brian Grim (an active Catholic) first encountered this program in Latin America and saw its effectiveness in helping people. Even more, Grim saw that the approach would be a new way to advance religious freedom by utilizing the freedom people of faith have to do good and address some of the pressing issues of today. These issues range from poverty alleviation to countering radicalisation.
The Empowerment+ interfaith toolkit helps build social cohesion through facilitated interfaith groups (eliminating isolation), that provide practical results (overcoming desperation), and demonstrate acceptance (ending rejection), and model the radical spiritual power of serving others (replacing spiritual anomie with spiritual groundedness).
Indeed, the social and spiritual power of the approach is that it gives those facing challenges and problems the opportunity to constructively help others in the group process. By helping others we become more empowered, contributing members of society.
Observations on Empowerment+ and Finding a Better Job
One of the first partners in the Empowerment+ initiative was Mohammed Ullah, the honorary Muslim Chaplain at Manchester University. Mohammed has been part of helping to pilot Find a Better Job. In the video below hear his reflections on the second component of Empowerment+:
And finally, the person who has literally opened the door of the Catholic Chaplaincy as the venue to pilot Empowerment+, Fr Tim Byron, SJ, gives his reflections on the overall initiative in the video below.
For more information, contact Brian Grim.
* The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, a registered non-denominational charity in the United States, is grateful to the LDS Church for the opportunity to adapt the church’s self-reliance materials in collaboration with the multiple faith communities participating in this interfaith initiative.