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Thought For The Week - 27-11-23

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Our vision is underpinned by the story of Moses. In this story, Moses was empowered by God to undertake his challenging task and to be an agent of change.

Over the last few years, I have been working on a project called Empowering Voices, Exploring Worldviews. This piece of work aligns with the developments in how we approach RE teaching and learning: a move towards understanding that worldviews start with people, both as objects of study and as interpreters of the world around them.

This project has helped me recognise that much of how I have taught RE in the past has been a process of disempowering particular voices or lived experiences. For example, I have often taught that Muslims pray in a mosque – it’s one of the Five Pillars of Islam. However, I recently discovered that only 30% of mosques in the UK have designated space for women; this means that, in the past, I have disempowered Muslim women through my RE teaching by not accurately sharing their lived experience. Empowering Voices, Exploring Worldviews seeks to address this by providing a snapshot of a particular lived experience, including teaching resources that support teachers and pupils to explore how context has shaped this lived experience. 

What this has taught me is that once you start to notice what you have never seen before, you cannot unsee it. After a conversation with a Nigerian colleague about the impact of only ever having access to teaching resources about Christianity that depict Christians as white people, I cannot unsee this in classrooms around the country. After speaking with a female headteacher who is trying to maintain a positive relationship with a parent who finds the idea of women in leadership difficult to live with, I cannot unsee the challenges faced by some and not others.

And, of course, once you have seen it, you have a choice – do you do something about what you have seen or not? This is the choice facing Moses. Once he has seen the burning bush, he cannot unsee it and he has a choice to make. Does he return to Egypt to petition Pharaoh, or does he stay where he is and pretend nothing happened? If Moses were anything like most of us, I imagine he might actually have preferred a quiet life… But the call of God is not simply something to be heard, it is something that empowers. We see this again and again in the stories in the Bible. Those who are most vulnerable, those who are the least in their society – because of their age, gender, social class, religion, and so on, - are both able to see injustices and are empowered by God to transform the world for the better.

We know that this is the burden you carry every day: we know you see things you cannot unsee and that you need to make choices about how you will act next. Please know that we are here to help empower you as you carry out those actions and that we believe in the importance of challenging injustices wherever you see them.

from Gillian Georgiou, RE & SIAMS Adviser

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