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Faith walkers head for a funding crisis
Buy this photo » The 10th annual interfaith walk through Oxford in June. Picture: OX59763 Mark Hemsworth
A FAITH walk that helps to bring religious communities together each year could be scrapped in future due to a lack of funds.
The Council of Faiths, which organises the walk, received £5,000 from Oxford City Council when it was formed in 2007/08 but has received nothing since.
The group needs about £1,000 each year to put on the Interfaith Friendship Walk, which takes place in June, but its finances are now “precarious”.
Oxford City Council said the Council of Faiths was able to apply for other grants but each application would be decided on its merit.
Council of Faiths chairman Penny Faust said: “When we first got started the city council gave us an initial grant to get us off the ground.
“They were very generous at the beginning but unfortunately we have not had any money from them recently.
“What we would like somewhere along the line is for the powers that be in Oxford who are concerned about community cohesion to recognise, through financial donation, the work and the contribution of the Council of Faiths. At the moment we have enough money to have the walk next year but we do not have enough beyond that.”
She added: “The importance of the Council of Faiths is that it provides a focus for different faith groups to discover their commonality, to make very good friends and to support each other when things might get difficult.
“The faith walk provides an opportunity for a demonstration of the friendship.”
Since the initial £5,000 from the city council’s building resilience among our communities fund, which ended in 2011, the only large donation the Council of Faiths has received was a £2,000 grant from the Trust of St Michael at the Northgate. Last year the group also received £250 from Churches Together.
Mrs Faust, a member of the Jewish Orthodox community, said the group had put in an unsuccessful bid to the city council for another donation last year. The walk, which saw 500 people of all faiths walk through Oxford this year, needs money to hire a loud speaker and pay for insurance, promotional material and catering.
The Council of Faiths previously donated all the money collected at the walk to charity, but this year it had to retain half of the cash for future walks. The group had about £978 income last year but its expenditure, largely on the faith walk, was about £1,030.
Council of Faiths member Bede Gerrard, part of the Greek Orthodox Church, said: “If we do not receive another grant we will have to go into our own pockets to ensure that the walk goes ahead. Our finances are precarious.”
A city council spokeswoman said: “Organisations and groups can apply through our annual grants programme for further funding but we take each application on its individual merit.”
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