Belfast conference to highlight contribution of faith communities to fight against poverty and social exclusion

18 Nov 2013

Belfast conference to highlight contribution of faith communities to fight against poverty and social exclusion

  • Conference will be chaired by Bishop Nöel Treanor and opened by Minister Nelson McCausland

This Thursday 21 November, the Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs, in conjunction with the Community Faiths Forum, is hosting a half-day conference entitled ‘Policies for People: Faith perspectives for social need and social policy’.  The conference will be chaired by Bishop Nöel Treanor, Bishop of Down & Connor and opened by Minister for Social Development, Mr Nelson McCausland MLA.  It will discuss the contribution which faith perspectives can bring to the public debate on social need and social policy.  All are welcome and the conference will take place at Skainos, Newtownards Road, Belfast from 10.00am until 1.30pm.

The context of the conference is that faith communities are providing vital services in the fight against poverty and social exclusion, supporting those who find themselves unable to provide for themselves or their families.  With demands for these services increasing rapidly and growing fears for the future impact of social welfare reform, is there a need for faith-based organisations to increase efforts to bring their experience and values to government and international policy in these areas?  This conference seeks to explore opportunities for engagement from the faith sector in the shaping of social and economic policy, in dialogue with other key stakeholders.  The discussion will be framed in an EU context, examining the concept of the social market economy, enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon, and drawing comparisons with developments in other EU countries.

The programme will include an introductory theological reflection, a keynote talk by Professor Peadar Kirby, small group and panel discussions.  The sponsoring organisations are, respectively, inter-faith and Catholic bodies.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Bishop Treanor, a member of the Board of NICCOSA, said, “The steady growth in political alienation and the sense of isolation experienced by many of those experiencing poverty and social exclusion is something we should all be concerned about.  The challenge is to step into that space, articulate our values and present proposals for change in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation with all sectors of society.”


Notes for Editors

  • Photographs from the conference will be available to media for publication.  Please contact Neil Harrison, Tel: 0044 (0) 7737474034, email [email protected].
  • The Community Faiths Forum is funded through the Voluntary and Community Unit (VCU) of the Department for Social Development (DSD). The Forums work is administered by the Churches’ Community Work Alliance NI, and overseen by Eddie McDowell, CCWA Director, on behalf of a steering group consisting of members of CCWA’s management committee. The Forum is designed to be a forum for discussion of social and community issues.  It includes five members from the Bahai, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh religions alongside 20 members drawn from various Christian traditions.  Social issues such as poverty, housing, Shared Future and volunteering, and community engagement will always be the primary items on the agenda for discussion and this will have relevance for the entire community and for all faith groups who seek to help disadvantaged, excluded or marginalised people in local communities.
  • Peadar Kirby is Professor Emeritus of International Politics and Public Policy in the University of Limerick and, until 2011, was director of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge in Society (ISKS) at the same university. Before becoming an academic, he worked as a journalist in The Irish Times and, between 1984 and 1986, was associate editor of Noticias Aliadas in Lima, Peru.  He is now an adjunct professor in both the University of Iceland, Reykjavik and at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.  In the autumn of 2012 he held the UNESCO Chair in international development studies at the University of Valencia, Spain.  He has published widely on society, economics, and politics.
  •  The Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs is the Northern Ireland sub-committee of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. With a membership of mostly lay Catholics with relevant experience and expertise, NICCOSA provides advice and support to the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland on social, legal and political issues. The Council is chaired by Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, assisted by Bishop Nöel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor.                                         

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444