Luton Mum shares the vision of FACES: Faiths Against Child Sexual Exploitation.
Rehana Faisal is a mum from Luton, who is involved with her mosque, community and inter-faith work, and is chair of Lantern - a Muslim women's organisiation. When a group of Luton Muslims and Christians decided to come together to tackle CSE, she wanted to get involved:
“As I Muslim, I couldn’t look away from the issue. Initially I was struck by the narrative of “Muslim grooming gangs”, but I realised that those stories only represented a small part of how CSE manifests itself; there were many other narratives going on. The danger of stereotyping is that we see perpetrators as brown men and victims as white women. That means a whole load of victims will get missed, and many perpetrators get a free pass.
FACES is a coalition of faith groups, all looking at different ways to engage our communities with the issue. We run courses for faith leaders to explain what CSE is, how to spot the signs, peer-to-peer exploitation, and how to respond. We are working on teaching materials to use in church youth groups and Madrassa (Islamic after-school classes). Youthscape is working with us to create resources for schools, and we’ve had a request from women who want a women-only session.
The courses are going really well. We had 60 people including 40 Imams at the first session. I felt so proud to see the level of concern and openness to tackling CSE. People were very engaged, and said “we want to do more”. I think faith groups are well placed, because there is a wealth of resources within our beliefs that supports what we are doing. As people of faith, we have a responsibility to protect the vulnerable, and to support vulnerable people to be resilient to exploitation.
We also recognise that faith groups have often struggled to talk honestly about sex, and have sometimes been naïve, assuming that exploitation couldn’t happen in a religious community, as it is so contrary to our beliefs. We have to face the fact that this is a human problem, and humans sin. The positive thing about working across faiths is that there is no finger-pointing, no saying “this is your problem”. CSE comes in many shapes and forms, and our faiths don’t need to be part of the problem, they can be part of the solution.”
FACES is a coalitiion of faith organisations which includes Azalea and a number of other Christian and Muslim groups in Luton. You can read more about it on their website,