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17 November 2016

Faith in action: your response

Faith in action: your response

The Northern Ireland Community and Voluntary Association (NICVA) is currently administering a short survey for faith based organisations. They hope to better understand the needs of churches and faith based organisations and the work that they do with the wider community. This is part of NICVA's wider remit to deliver infrastructure support for faith based organisations in Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for Communities.

According to some initial research that we have collated to date, the Charity Commission of Northern Ireland has 5,215 registered charities. Of those 1,389 have included the 'advancement of religion' as part of their classification - representing 27 per cent of the list. This includes 1,113 churches and 818 Christian charities. There are a significant number of other faith based charities whose main focus is education, community, relief of poverty amongst other things who do not list religion in their registration. There are between approximately 1,600 and 2,000 churches in Northern Ireland and although some will register as groups, not all will show up individually on the register. A cautious estimate suggests that between a quarter and one third of all charities in Northern Ireland are faith-based.

It is vital that this scale and this unique Christian contribution to the voluntary and community sector and indeed wider society is understood sot that we can work as effectively as possible for the gospel and good of everyone in our communities as we make Christ known through our words and deeds. Churches and faith-based organisations will continue in their charitable works regardless of changes in statutory services because we are driven by our faith not funding. That said, we want to steward our resources well as we often continue to advocate for the most vulnerable and to play our part in improving relationships across civil society.

Surveys and mapping exercises like this have been attempted before and with mixed results. There can be a suspicion on the part of both the Church and the State when it comes to engaging with each other. Sometimes this is healthy and sometimes is founded on myth and misinformation. We are working through bodies like the Community Faiths Forum to help increase religious literacy across Government and statutory bodies. 

We are also encouraging Christian organisations and churches in Northern Ireland to respond to NICVA's faith survey so that their contributions, work and witness can be captured in the results to help shape future policy. The survey is open until 4pm on 2 December and you can respond online by clicking here. Finally, as a representative body we are also keen to make sure that any collective concerns, challenges or even encouragements from churches and the organisations we represent are passed on to NICVA and government so please feel free to get in touch with David Smyth via d.smyth@eauk.org 

Image: CC0  Derry Twilight - HDR