in News August 15, 2018
Above: Members of a Faiths Forum project visit Downing Street.
Since 1999, the United Nations has deemed the 12 August of as International Youth Day. The date aims to highlight issues affecting young people while celebrating their contributions to their culture and local communities. One of the main themes of this year’s International Youth Day is ‘safe spaces’ and more specifically, ensuring that safe spaces are inclusive so that young people from diverse backgrounds, are assured that they are respected and have self worth.
The concept of a safe space is to give young people from minority backgrounds the platform for their voices to be heard and the chance to contribute to society without feeling intimidated. According to the UN, it is built on the notion that a lack of such environments can cause young people to feel isolated, or even fall into dangerous situations.
Over the past year, London has not felt like a very safe space for many young people, as knife crime has dominated recent headlines, and it seems as if each week brings news of another life cut short. Blame for the stabbings has been pinned on everything from police cuts to the music culture, and it seems as if all hope is lost.
This, of course, is not the case. While these tragic acts make headlines, they are not indicative of an entire generation. Even so, the people caught up in these crimes have, to some degree, been bypassed by the support systems that prevent their peers from falling victim to such dangerous scenarios; be it family, school or something else.
Through our work at Faiths Forum, we hope to provide a safe space for young people, either because they cannot find it elsewhere, or because they simply need extra support in their lives.
Our ‘Aspire to Change’ project, for example, looked to tackle knife crime in the borough of Brent. The project connected young people with local faith institutions, allowing them to communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds from the streets they grew up on. Many of the youth we met were from ethnic minority backgrounds, where faith plays a vital role in their community.
Similarly, The My Voice project aims to equip young muslims with the knowledge and skills to amplify their voices and get their views across in a constructive and convincing manner. Through training and workshops, often run by professionals from PR and media industries, My Voice provides them with the agency and self-confidence to pursue their goals.
More recently, Faiths Forum launched its Civic and Democracy Leadership Programme, encompassing various workshops to enhance and expand young people’s arsenal of skills whilst also addressing issues critical to society.
Projects such as these offer a safe space, and safe spaces give people the chance to meet, talk and foster ideas. However, this cannot take the place of personal accountability. We must not absolve the perpetrators of responsibility by simply claiming they ‘fell through the cracks’, even if it is partially true.
Even so, safe spaces, whether provided by faith-based or other organisations, can give young people the tools to envision a brighter future, as well as the skills to realise it themselves.
Given the challenges of recent times, we are confident young people will have realised it’s down to them to create a better future – and taken the steps, with assistance from whatever help is at hand, to make it happen.
in News August 15, 2018