Shap Award 2011
by Heather Wells
As we celebrate our 10th year and our 25th issue, Lorna Douglas and I and the whole editorial team are absolutely delighted to receive the Shap Award 2011. Lorna, as a secondary school teacher of Religious, Moral and Philosophical studies is particularly gratified to receive the endorsement of an organisation that values, at its core, the benefits of Religious Education: and it is especially meaningful to me because I did my BA and Masters as a mature student in the Religious Studies Dept. of Lancaster University. A Department founded by Professor Ninian Smart who also co-founded the Shap Working Party. I only knew Professor Smart briefly towards the end of his life, but I always appreciated the ethos of open discussion and debate that he established within the Department. I believe that the seeds for the nature of this magazine were sown in that very place.
We published the 1st issue of ‘Initiative’ in the Summer of 2001 with my editorial setting the tone: ‘As you turn the pages I hope that you will be struck by the multi-religious ethos that is embodied within its covers, with this characteristic I believe Initiative will provide a forum for people of different faiths to share their visions, their dreams and their fears…'
Issue No.2 was already being published when events that marked 9/11 took place and in that issue we carried an article on our ‘Opinion’ page written by a young Muslim man. He wrote passionately, conveying his sense of injustice that Asian youths, mainly of Pakistani/Bangladeshi heritage, were failing to be integrated into British society despite endeavours on their part to ‘conform to the British way of life’. I read the article later through the lens of the 9/11 experience and was filled with a sense of what I can only describe as ‘awe’ that here was the voice of young British Muslims and the magazine was serving as the platform. I knew then that we would never dismiss an opportunity to raise awareness to issues that affected people of faith in Britain and beyond.
Fundamentally the magazine was conceived to open windows on to religious traditions, and provide an insight into the daily lives of people of faith so as to eradicate the ‘fear of the unknown’ that deters many people from engaging with the ‘Other’ – their neighbours, their colleagues, their school friends. We chose to do this by inviting people of all faiths to contribute their own stories and articles addressing particular themes and issues relevant to their sense of identity as a person of faith. As we also drew on the arts to convey the passion of the artist we found ourselves spiritually moved by the wonderful rhythm, colour and beauty inspired by faith in all its forms: our Poet in Residence, Rebecca Irvine Bilkau has especially gifted us with her tender reminders of the essence of our humanity.
This award gives recognition to all these people who have contributed to the content of the magazine – writers, artists, photographers and poets - who have given generously of their time and skills, showing a real commitment to interfaith dialogue: also to those who over the years have shown support in many different ways - we thank you all!