English PEN delivers a project equipping young people with the confidence to criticise, defend and understand matters of free speech and faith
In 2013, English PEN received a grant from the MB Reckitt trust to engage writers in eight youth consultations with 80 young people of diverse faith backgrounds, engaging them in constructive communication with one another, and with our team of researchers.
Similarly, using the young people’s feedback, we successfully recruited a team of 4 experts who undertook a six-week programme of research that resulted in a Learning Pack, including seven Learning Module pdf resources and six videos. The content of these included, as a principal theme, free speech as it relates to faith, interfaith communication and understanding between traditions.
Produced by our team of four experts from faith and free speech backgrounds, these resources will be an excellent resource for equipping young people with ‘the confidence to criticise, defend and understand matters of faith’.
These pdf and video learning resources are free to view and download and for use of teachers, young people and youth group leaders. Together they form an entire introductory course on the issue.
Learning Resource 1: Introduction to Faith and Free Speech
The additional ‘Learning Resource 1: Introduction to Faith and Free Speech’, was conceived during the project, in response to feedback from young people and does not include a video.
Learning Resource 2: I AM
Relating to the Learning Resource of the same name, this video involves images of faith and secular settings, and interviews with religious practitioners, youth workers, and free speech campaigners, involving issues of identity. How does faith define you? How does that relate to how you express yourself, and in what settings?
Learning Resource 3: Green Team
Relating to the Learning Resource of the same name, this video involves a reality-TV style show, in which members of different faith groups compete and cooperate for the chance to address pressing environmental issues. The video demonstrates both interfaith collaboration, and social awareness which is informed and enhanced by faith.
Learning Resource 4: Truth or Dare?
Relating to the Learning Resource of the same name, this video dramatises a situation in which offensive material has been posted on a school website and the school authority has reacted by censoring it. Told through the medium of social media messages, the video demonstrates opposing viewpoints on the nature of censorship or the promotion of materials some feel offensive to their faith.
Learning Resource 5: WW You D?
Relating to the Learning Resource of the same name, and taking as its inspiration the idea of WWJD? (‘What Would Jesus Do?’) this video poses a scenario of someone being bullied for their faith and relationships, issues of gender and sexism, interfaith friendship, and tools that young people can use to address personal issues in a supportive context.
Learning Resource 6: Cancel Xmas
Relating to the learning resource of the same name, this video uses science fiction as its format, positing a future scenario in which an extremist secular government has banned all religious festivities and celebrations. The main character makes plea in the form of a video diary – complete with a library of secret religious images and iconography – giving his Christmas message to those who might be listening out there.
Learning Resource 7: End of Term
Relating to the learning resource of the same name, this video poses a debate between 6th-formers, who must plan an end-of-term celebration which is inclusive to people of all faith backgrounds and none. The video also demonstrates the methods of debate, cooperation, communication and consensus that arise from faith traditions, as explored in the pdf / print resource.
Learning Resource 8 – Additional material for teachers
With thanks to our research team: Sophie Mayer – writer and academic, Queen Mary, University of London; Mark Vernon – former Anglican minister, writer author, The School of Life; Tehmina Kazi – activist, and director of Muslims for Secular Democracy; and Bharti Tailor – community organiser, and chairwoman of Hindu Forum Britain. Thanks also to film-maker Azhur Saleem.
Many thanks to the young people and teachers at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, Burlington Danes School and Norwood School.
Special thanks to the MB Reckitt Trust for making this project possible.