Building Relationships Between Secular & Faith-Based Organisations; A Case-Study in Sexual Health Promotion

Naz Project London (NPL) is a voluntary sector organisation providing sexual health and HIV prevention and support services to targeted Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities in London. This case-study describes one example of how NPL is building and sustaining links with Muslim communities.

A few years ago NPL identified that they had a number of service users who were Muslim.  This prompted the organisation to consider ways of being more effective in reaching Muslim communities.

The first step was to approach a key mosque. A meeting was set up with a representative from NPL and a member of the Islamic Cultural Centre at the London Central Mosque with a responsibility for health. The NPL representative explained to the mosque representative that some of their service users were Muslim. NPL were unsure of how they could support their service users in relation to their faith concerns.

Recognising their different perspectives - NPL as a secular organisation and the mosque as a faith organisation - it was also possible to discuss their shared concern for members of their communities. The mosque representative explained the Muslim view of health and how this is rooted in their theology. The NPL representative explained how they respond to their service users and the principles and values of their work as a secular and open-access public health provider.

The meeting provided a starting point to build trust and begin a process of collaborative enquiry. Over the past five years the following practical activities have resulted from this dialogue, including:

  • NPL have co-delivered health fairs at the Islamic Cultural Centre
  • Co-production of a leaflet about HIV and Islam published with both the mosque and NPL logos, collaboratively translated into Arabic, and now used internationally
  • Information about STI/HIV testing offered by NPL sign-posted from the mosque web-site

To sustain the relationship both NPL and the mosque have taken opportunities to contribute to each others' activities, for example a representative from NPL breaking fast at the mosque at the end of Ramadan and a representative from the mosque attending an inter-faith event co-hosted by NPL.

Success factors

  • Investing time and effort in building and sustaining relationships has resulted in increased understanding and a range of wider outcomes that were not envisaged at the start
  • Through dialogue the two organisations identified practical ways they could help their shared communities
  • Tensions were not ignored. It was acknowledged that NPL needs to be able to tailor services to the needs of a diverse range of communities, including Muslims, and that sometimes the interests and values of these communities can be very conflicted. 

For more information visit the Naz Project London web-site.