Outdated or misunderstood?

Do professionals misunderstand the values of young people of faith?

First of all, professionals need to know that young people of faith really do believe in the faith they follow. For many their faith is their main source of identity, values, self-esteem and truth.


They are involved in worship with their faith community and receive teaching both at home and in their faith group about the personal and moral values that are regarded as consistent with their faith.

This is not to claim that they are able to put its values into practice in every situation. They would, however, make that their aim. They do this in a context of ongoing debate within their communities, where there is generally a continuum of views -  from strict traditionalists, to modernists trying to engage with a wider world.

The Role of Professionals

Your role needs to be one that supports them rather than adding to the tensions they already see in their lives. As Caroline Ray notes: ‘Some young people may experience SRE as an attempt to save them from the restrictions of  their faith or culture’.[1]  Instead, professionals need to find ways of helping young people to draw on the values of respect, trust, commitment and faithfulness that their faiths promote.

When we carried out a survey of young people’s experience of professionals for this website we heard that they wanted them: ‘not to be pushy, and accept our views’; to be aware that ‘my religion does not allow sex before marriage’; and to be ‘tolerant towards youth when talking about sex, bring up faith into the equation’.

There is then – despite much good work and thinking over the years on this issue[2] – a significant gap between many professionals and young people – both in the area of education and service delivery. Professionals need to be aware that the decision to exclude religious values from the presentation of SRE is a value-based decision in itself. [3]

A young Muslim helpline worker comments: 'It’s just having a basic knowledge. For example, if you were sitting there talking to someone about boy/girl concern, and you’re saying, “so what, you’ve got a girlfriend?”  Well, actually, no, because in Islam you’re not supposed to have a relationship [unless it is] a relationship when you’re trying to get to know someone, with the intention of marriage. … It’s having that knowledge, of recognising the ways they can deal with it, and realising why their family aren’t happy.' [4]

However there does need to be a difference made between shared faith values and some traditional cultural values and practices that are not part of faith and may harm young people. [5] The guides in ‘What Faith Groups Believe’ will give you an outline of general beliefs shared by each faith community. 


[1] Forum factsheet 21: Meeting the needs of girls and young women in sex and relationships education Caroline Ray  Sex Education Forum 2000 at https://www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/

[2] For example :  Faith, Values and Sex & Relationships Education  Simon Blake Simon Blake (Author), Zarine Katrak   National Children's Bureau  London 2002

[3] see chapter 2 – Why religious beliefs are not clutter in Doing God in Education  Trevor Cooling   Theos  London 2010 (also downloadable from the Theos website  http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk)

[4] In Young British Muslims and relationships .  Musab Younis ; Muslim Youth Helpline. 2010 available from   http://www.myh.org.uk/information?id=9

[5] an extreme is FGM see: Female Genital Mutilation Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines FCO  2011 http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/travel-living-abroad/when-things-go-wrong/multi-agency-fgm-guidelines.pdf