HORRIFIED at the imminent closure of the crucial Inter Faith Network (IFN), Quakers are urging the government to reconsider its funding withdrawal.

On 7 February, the board of the IFN agreed they must move towards closure in two weeks unless the UK government fulfilled its funding promise.

£155,000 to cover IFN’s work from July 2023 to March 2024 was offered in July 2023 by Communities Secretary Michael Gove. It has not yet been delivered.

In January, Gove threatened to withdraw the funding because of the IFN’s relationship with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), including appointing an MCB member as a trustee in July 2023.

It is believed that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is also concerned that the IFN did not explicitly condemn Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7 October last year. However, the IFN has a policy of not commenting on overseas events, and says it was never advised by the government not to appoint a MCB trustee or to expel the MCB as a member body. Despite widespread support from individuals and organisations, writing to MPs and ministers, starting petitions, and making donations, the government has yet to reinstate the funding.

Quakers are long-standing members of the IFN, widely acknowledged as a trusted and effective UK-wide body working to deepen inter faith understanding and co-operation. Judith Baker, ecumenical and interfaith officer at Quakers in Britain, said: “We are saddened and angry that the Government, which has itself emphasised the importance of solid inter faith relations, has not honoured its commitment to a funding grant.

“The irony of this decision is that IFN provided a channel for government ministers to communicate directly with a wide range of faith groups in this country. At times of potential conflict faith leaders and groups have been able to use the good relationships built up though the network to dispel the notion that trouble is due to faith, when it is usually political or other factors which lead to conflict.”

Philip Austin, Quaker representative on Bolton Interfaith Council, said: “The encouragement and advice on good practice when Bolton Interfaith Council was being set up made a real practical difference. And the annual Inter Faith Week resources provided a wonderful platform for wider engagement and outreach.”

* Read the Quaker Committee for Christian and Interfaith Relations (QCCIR) statement on the situation here.

* Sign the petition calling upon Michael Gove to reverse his decision here.

* Source: Quakers in Britain