THE BAHÁ'ÍS OF DERRY
SCREENING OF EQUALITY POLICIES BY PUBLIC BODIES
SUBMISSION TO THE CENTRAL SERVICES AGENCY AND OTHER HEALTHCARE-RELATED BODIES IN NORTHERN IRELAND
This submission is made by the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Londonderry, the elected administrative body for the members of the Bahá’í Faith in the district, on behalf of the Bahá’í Community of Londonderry.
The Bahá’í Community includes people of a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds and previous religious affiliations, and this added to the teachings of the Faith on social inclusion, gender equality, and community development, give it a keen interest in equality issues.
All issues related to equality have an added weightiness in the areas related to healthcare. Any of us might be affected, but they often relate there to some of the most vulnerable members of our society, many of whom have been brought into these areas of need by failures in equality in the wider society. At the same time the services themselves include people from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, perhaps the most diverse group of any in Northern Ireland, and they also must be considered.
The Bahá’í Community has for many years noted and regretted the tendency to see Northern Ireland in a stereotyped “Protestant-Catholic” way. While these two branches of the Christian religion do represent the majority of the population, and “the Troubles” have inevitably sharpened the focus on them, this Province contains a significant and increasing number of people who belong to others of the world’s great religions. They have tended to be overlooked and marginalized, not least by official bodies.
There are also present here increasing numbers of people from ethnic minorities. As they have become an increasing part of public and official consciousness an impression has tended to grow that the two things – member of an ethnic minority and follower of a non-Christian religion – are the same thing. This is not so, the two are not necessarily the same, and each is entitled to be dealt with in its own right. As a non-Christian religious community the majority of whose members are nonetheless physically indistinguishable from the majority population here we feel that the confusion of the two does no service to either.
We therefore feel it very important that equality policies recognise and give due weight to, both ethnic minorities and religious minorities, and not in any way equate the two. Such equation increases the risk of marginalizing both.
By way of example we offer two examples from our own experience, examples that cause offence and which convey an implicit message that “you are not a full or proper member of society here”:
We are sure that a more thoughtful attitude will characterise official bodies in the future.
September 2000 CE