Armed Forces Hindu Network (AFHN)
The Armed Forces Hindu Network (AFHN) was launched in 2014 to support the Armed Forces Hindu community and their commanding officers. The network's guiding principles are that the core values and standards of the Armed Forces reflect the core values of Hinduism and that today's Armed Forces Hindu community continues a long and proud tradition of Hindu service to the Crown and UK Defence.
The network is volunteer-led and comprises past and serving members of the Armed Forces (including reservists) and their families. It has two main activity strands: supporting the chain of command and members of the Defence Hindu community, and integration and engagement of members of the Armed Forces with the British Hindu community.
The AFHN has organised events with the National Hindu Students Forum, including a Dharma Fest cultural event and annual national sports tournaments. It has also hosted two Diwali functions and a Raksha Bandhan tour to Edinburgh, Bradford, Birmingham and London. The network has developed close working ties with local, regional and national Hindu organisations and temples, and has worked closely with the British Armed Forces Sikh Association and the Armed Forces Muslim Association to develop a programme of youth engagement around South Asians who served in World War One.
The AFHN regularly provides feedback to its Champion who sits on the Permanent Secretary's Diversity Forum. Ministers and senior leaders – both civilian and military – have attended events organised by the network. There are regular communications between the AFHN chair, the Hindu Chaplain and D&I policy desks in the Army, Navy and Air Force to ensure policies are fit for purpose and identify innovative mechanisms to fund AFHN activities. AFHN committee members are provided with feedback from senior officers which informs their annual appraisals, and the network works with Commanding Officers to ensure Hindu Service personnel are able to attend events.
The percentage of UK regular forces declaring Hinduism as their religion has increased from 0.6% in October 2014 to 0.7% in October 2015. Defence has an ambitious target for increasing BAME recruitment to the Armed Forces by 2020 and the AFHN has a key role to play in meeting this.
The AFHN has been instrumental in connecting the MoD with individuals, communities and organisations across Britain and Commonwealth Hindu populations, raising awareness of Hindus in Defence and enhancing the MoD's reputation as an inclusive employer. It has also helped create a more inclusive working environment, thereby enhancing the lived experience of Hindu staff.
The network now plans to develop training pathways for AFHN Committee members and a Defence Guide to Hinduism in conjunction with the Hindu Chaplain and to survey the Defence Hindu community to formally ascertain their views, needs and aspirations.