Interfaith Druid

I spent the weekend at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust in Slimbridge, selling art and books as part of their Christmas market. For those of you who are either further away or not devoted bird watchers, this is a big nature centre, lots of water birds, and a big foyer suitable for doing events in. I had Druid books on the table, unshockingly, and I did sell some.

I also had several conversations with random people who saw ‘Druid’ on the book covers and wanted to talk about what they’d seen in the news, something about interfaith and charity… half remembered stories that made them uneasy. I ended up filling in gaps as best I could. I only have a partial grasp on what’s going on, but, The Druid Network – a registered English charity, applied for a place on the Interfaith Network (I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s called.) This is a big, publically funded interfaith group. The Druid Network were turned down, ostensibly on the grounds that it would cause disruption, despite no evidence of any Druid ever having disrupted any of the smaller interfaith groups where Druids attend.

It looks a lot like prejudice. Worse yet, it is prejudice in an organisation that gets its money from the state, and has therefore some sort of mandate. If you want to be a bigot in your own private playground, I for one don’t have the energy to bug you about it. I’ll go someplace else. But, if you are a big, official outfit and there is no ‘somewhere else’ that makes a viable alternative, I am not a happy bunny.

I like interfaith work. I’ve had a little bit of formal exposure. I like the kind of random informal stuff I end up doing at events. I also like the Druid Network (I’m a member but in no way qualified to speak on behalf of said outfit). I do not like what’s happened here. The whole point of interfaith is inclusion. I’ve heard plenty of protest against the idea of ‘fringe nutters’ getting a toe in the door anywhere. Usually from people who assume ‘fringe nutters’ are all the people they haven’t heard of, and the odds are good they’ll include folk like the Bahia and Jains in there. As well as us, of course. Tabloid thinking, we all know how it goes. ‘I haven’t heard of it and therefore it’s a worthless pile of rubbish’ is not the mindset that makes interfaith work. ‘I don’t like it so I don’t want to have to deal with it’ is another attitude you cannot take into interfaith work. It all starts to sound a bit like ‘don’t take my toys away!’

Some of the bigger UK faith groups have not been getting good press lately, for other acts of exclusion (Church of England saying no to women Bishops). Politically this sort of behaviour just isn’t clever, and it doesn’t help anyone. We need to be able to talk to each other. We need to foster open communication to reduce fear and prejudice. We need to accept at the table anyone who feels moved to be there, no matter how fringe, or weird or ‘not us’ we think they are. Exclusion is a good way of breeding resentment and entrenching bloody stupid ideas on both sides. We need something a lot better than this. I wait with interest to see what we actually get.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Interfaith Druid

  • bish

    Hmm… this issue is gently surfacing in all sorts of places, but alongside the ducks and swans… lol.

    My Solstice Thought for the Week went off to the Gazette the other day, but perhaps I’ll have to upload it to the blog a bit earlier than planned. The final paragraph is pertinent.

    “Sharing our faith without forcing it – Interfaith – is important to us all if we are to find the sacred in all our doings, and to understand each others. The Druid Network, having been registered as a religious charity in 2010, has recently sought membership of the Inter Faith Network. Though that is causing ripples in the waters of interfaith, we strongly desire to share our inspiration in the common spiritual pool. For if Interfaith isn’t all faiths, it’s not interfaith.”

  • Elizabeth Rimmer

    I agree with the above. I can see a need for some caution, but the Druids are a recognised charity now, and what’s good enough for the Charity Commission ought to be good enough for the rest.

  • Jennifer Tavernier

    Over here, in any kind of organized freedom of religion organization, it is the same. While of course, we are the big “Freedom of Religion” nation.
    I have to shake my head at the ridiculous of “man” is in charge of faith. What God or Gods appointed them, and why, is as ephemeral as defining spirituality. As long as it is an established Christian based agency, which they only need to proclaim in their Articles of Incorporation. Note, they do not say inter-spiritual.
    It might be interesting to have the Druids set up an inter-spiritually meet-up group,and go from there, as it grows. Since it has already been accepted as a legal entity #’s and PR of what’s happening can make establishment (and members/contacts), a given thing.
    …We have a few of them here – and it is gaining in momentum, as they are very active in helping – making themselves visible. Things get done. …Instead of butting one’s head against the problem, they just took it on their own, and grew. All welcome. Starting with the charity activities. Always a mention of who was there, and the sponsoring organization. …Very quiet, and very straightforward. And the assumption of the total right to be there. Little pamphlets starting the neighborhood and any other organization, with the aims stated, and a simple, if you would like to help take part, you are invited. A newsletter.
    …This whole “who can play” religious group movement has become rather weighty and unwieldy, much too gross politically, and heavy for the ephemeral. It’s a continuation of the Old Boy’s Club. And it is rather poorly obvious that they have lost sight of why they are there – what this whole thing was originally put in place for. It has become it’s own collapsing juggernaut, and has very little to do with people and perhaps service towards.Unless of course, it means donations and $ in.

  • Buzzard

    Hi Nimue,
    Phil Ryder held his talk around the Interfaith Network rejection at the TDN con.
    He was going to the house of Lords with other interfaith members the following week for a seminar.
    Do you know how he got on or where I can find out?

    Buzzard

  • Muhammad

    Hello, and bright blessings and the peace of the grove to Druid friends. The details of the story of the Inter Faith Network’s refusal to accept Druids as members is covered in an article in “The Times” on 1 December 2012:

    Click to access the_times_1_december_2012.pdf

    If you are are registered subscriber to the Times, you can also get the article by clicking here (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/faith/article3617192.ece).

    The event at the House of Lords on 26 November 2012 was chaired by Revd Peter Owen-Jones, BBC Anglican clergyman and presenter of “Round the World in 80 Faiths”. He condemned the Inter Faith Network which receives millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money for excluding Druids.

    Muslims, Hindus, various Christians and other faiths joined voices in support of the Druids. A leading human rights firm, Bindmans LLP has published the legal reasons why the Inter Faith Network’s actions are illegal and break the Equality Act 2010. That legal guidance can be downloaded here:

    Click to access guidance.pdf

    There were about 24 different faiths in that House of Lords meeting, from Muslims to Mormons, Buddhists and Santo Daime – all solidly supporting the Druids, against this bigotry. Phil Ryder is our hero, and we all love him.

    The problem the Inter Faith Network has is that Druids are on a BLACKLIST of the Church of England, as one of the evil cults which Anglicans aren’t supposed to be in formal interfaith dialogue with. Go to this link and click on “NRM Policy Document” on the right – Druidry and Paganism are all blacklisted:

    http://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/mission/engaging-with-new-religious-movements.aspx

    This is the problem, but we are joining forces as people of many faiths to stand up for equality for all faiths in the UK. Your support would be very welcome.

    Peace

    Muhammad

  • Muhammad

    My privilege to support the Druid community in any way I can. Phil Ryder is a star, and a highly respected friend.

    We may very well call on your kind help, as we need to get the message out widely through social media that this discrimination against Druids and other minority faiths is taking place by an Inter Faith Network which you and me are all paying for with our taxes. Bright blessings.

  • Alex Jones

    Such an organisation is running into dangerously illegal territory for discriminating against Druidry, especially being publicly funded and that Druids are regarded in law as a religion.

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