On 28 January 2017 the Graduation Ceremony for the completion of the pilot course of the “Empowerment-Plus: Interfaith Social Cohesion & Enterprise Project” was held.
Professor Brian Grim of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation and a practicing Catholic, has been working extensively with Church Headquarters and Self-Reliance Services to formulate an initiative to help those experiencing a wide range of socio-economic risks including displacement, unemployment, isolation, crime, addiction and radical extremist violence. Church Self-Reliance materials have been adapted into a multi-faith format.
The Empowerment-Plus initiative will field interfaith teams, throughout the world, that reach out and mentor to at risk individuals, imparting and empowering skills and networks by using an Empowerment-Plus toolkit to be used in groups.
The test pilot for the initiative was conducted at the Catholic Chaplaincy of the University of Manchester. Three Young Adults from the Manchester YSA Ward, Marianne Orndal, Mark Ashton and Oliver Mann volunteered to participate in the group and three members of the Manchester Stake, Angela Griffith, Matt Evans and Ben Dixon acted as mentors for the group, along with five students from the Catholic Community and four from the Muslim Community.
Father Tim Byron of the Catholic Chaplaincy said “So much goodness has come out from this and it has been wonderful to see how much the group wanted to share and give to each other. The resources are so good and we are excited to be taking them out to Beirut next month and then we will be rolling them out to many countries.”
Professor Grim stated “So many people do interfaith dialogue but this dialogue has the potential to change the world - it is not just empty talk but has real purpose. It has been wonderful to see these young people from different backgrounds finding common ground.”
Hinna Parvez, Co-ordinator of Manchester Empowerment-Plus said “I have been overwhelmed by the success of the pilot. It has been so worthwhile and it has been fascinating to see it evolve.”
Sis. Griffith, a group mentor, stated “When we first started the process we were all very shy, we were all from different religions, we were all very different people, but as the weeks went on we developed a really deep bond, not only with the participants as the mentor and mentee, but also among the whole group. We developed quite a bond.”
Sir Alex Ferguson presented certificates of course completion at the graduation ceremony and gave an inspirational address outlining how his principles empowered him as a manager, making him aware of the needs and worth of all those who worked for him. He also stated that when his team lost he would tell them off that evening, pointing out where they had gone wrong specifically and then would never talk of it again. But his office would be open on Monday morning to offer advice and help as needed. (Reminiscent of D&C 121:43)
Self-Reliance materials are available to all church members in wards and stakes.
PHOTO CAPTION:Left to right, Matt Evans, Angela Griffith, Ben Dixon, Mark Ashton, Marianne Orndal, Oliver Mann, Tim Byron