Faith, enterprise and sport merge for Manchester graduates

Manchester's young leaders with their mentors
Manchester's young leaders with their mentors

Former Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has presented awards to the upcoming bright lights of religion and business at Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy. The worlds of football, religion and enterprise merged in a unique way for the graduation ceremony of the global interfaith pilot of the Launching Leaders course at the weekend.

Certificates of completion were handed out by Sir Alex to the participants on the interfaith course – a mix of Catholic, Muslim and Mormon students. Among those who attended the ceremony were the mentors on the course (also from a range of religious traditions) and dignitaries. They included Bishop John Arnold of Salford, former Greater Manchester Chief Constable, Sir Peter Fahy, Mohammed Ullah (honorary Muslim Chaplain to the Manchester Universities), Mormon Bishop Sean Roberts, Launching Leaders USA Executive Director Michael Leonard, Greater Manchester Citizens Community Organiser, Furqan Naeem, and Fr Tim Byron SJ (Lead Chaplain at the Catholic Chaplaincy).

The Launching Leaders programme ran for ten weeks at the Catholic Chaplaincy and is part of the wider Empowerment Plus programme devised by Professor Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. This unique programme aims to empower the Millennial Generation by imparting practical career and life skills alongside spiritual faith principles.

Making people feel valuedSir Alex Ferguson

Addressing the aspiring leaders, Sir Alex spoke about his experiences of leadership and what makes a good leader. “In all my years in management, my door was always open to anyone who came for advice,” he said, “and I think that is a really important part that you have to give away. You don’t expect anything back, because you’re the leader.” He placed a strong emphasis on acknowledging the efforts of others, from the greatest to the humblest. “It is so important to say ‘well done’. It really is as simple as that a lot of the time, to make people feel valued.”

Launching Leaders is one component of the wider Empowerment Plus programme, which is a fruit of years of research undertaken by Professor Grim. As the founder and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, he has looked extensively at the link between religious freedom and economic growth. His findings have shown that there is a positive correlation between the two, and that countries and regions where religious freedom is stifled have experienced economic decline.

“Many economic and social problems are overcome when people of different religions and beliefs work together in faith and action,” he says. “We chose to launch the interfaith version of Launching Leaders in Manchester because this really is the place where the innovation and the driving spirits and the diversity is coming and where great champions like Manchester United come from.”

Although the first Launching Leaders course has now come to an end, there are plans for the course to run again soon in Manchester and in locations throughout the world. Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy is now hosting another aspect of Empowerment Plus, in the form of ‘Finding a Better Job’ workshops, which aim to help attendees hone their professional job search and career skills using faith principles.

Watch a short video of the event by Fuse TV