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Government facilitates Interfaith Week and announces 2 Million funding initiative

Government facilitates Interfaith Week and announces
2 Million funding initiative

15th November 2009

Recognising the important role that faith plays in the lives of individuals, at the national launch of England’s first-ever Inter Faith Week, Communities Secretary John Denham will invite the views of faith communities on how to tackle some of the big challenges facing society, like parenting and the environment.

Inter Faith Week (15 to 21 November) is being facilitated by Communities and Local Government in partnership with the Inter Faith Network for the UK. It is faith-community led with organisations around the country holding events – from art exhibitions to inter faith seminars; from football matches to pilgrimage walks; from the good deeds of Mitzvah Day to the good food of shared meals - to bring major faith communities, as well as those with no religious beliefs, closer together.

Mr Denham has responsibility for the Government’s public policy on faith.  Stressing the importance of respecting faith in its own right, and not as a prop to Government when it has a problem to solve, he will say he wants to see a deeper and broader relationship between Government and faith communities.

The government already engages with faith communities through the Faith Communities Consultative Council (FCCC) where representatives of all the major religions are consulted on policy questions of mutual interest.  To deepen this relationship, he has had a round of intensive discussions with faith leaders and he is recruiting a panel of advisers to act as a sounding board on issues of faith and public policy.

In the midst of a global economic recession driven by lending, Mr Denham believes that the values which faith groups share – justice, equality, engagement - and the aim of Inter Faith Week to bring people of faith and no faith together, could be a starting point for building consensus for a stronger, fairer society.  

Speaking at the national launch of Inter Faith Week at the QEII, London, John  Denham said:

“Government should respect – should value, prize and celebrate – those things which matter to citizens. And for many, their faith shapes and defines who they are and this deserves respect.
“But Government and politicians are also interested in how society can be shaped for the better. Whether it is parenting, personal health, or sustainability, government is interested in what makes people tick. For millions of people the values instilled by their faith are central to shaping their behaviour. We should continually encourage and enhance the contribution faith makes on the central issues of our time.
“Inter Faith week creates more opportunities for people of different faiths, including young people, to explore how their faith helps them understand and respond to these challenges and, through this, build a stronger society.” 

Bishop Tom Butler and Dr Girdari Bhan, Co-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network for the UK said:

“We are delighted at the level of response to Inter Faith Week. It has clearly caught the imagination of people around the country.”

Dr Indirgit Singh, FCCC member and Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations of the UK said:

“Inter Faith week should move us from the usual polite exchange of pleasantries to actually looking to ways of replacing false barriers of misunderstanding and prejudice that divide our different religions, with sympathetic understanding and true respect for different ways of life.”
Mr Denham welcomes the practical value to society in having faith groups work closely together to overcome social division, promote cohesion and build social capital.  The efforts of faith groups to build relationships at a local level – not only amongst themselves, but also with the police, politicians and councils – has helped manage tension in the face of extreme provocation from right-wing extremists. 

To support this, faith communities around the country are set to receive £2million to encourage more local inter faith activity, helping to bring people from different backgrounds together to tackle shared problems
.  
He added:

“I am confirming that we are making £2 million available through the Faiths in Action programme; which faith, inter faith, voluntary and community sector groups can bid for to support projects which will bring people of faith and without faith together to overcome social division and promote cohesion.  Faith is a strong and powerful source of honesty, solidarity, generosity - the very values which are essential to politics, to our economy and our society.”

The new funding announced is being made available to support local activities over the coming years. Faiths in Action aims to bring communities together, promoting positive relationships between people of religious and non-religious beliefs together within local communities to work closely together to overcome social division and promote cohesion and beliefs at a local level. It is a £4m grants programme open to faith, inter faith, voluntary and community organisations and groups in England and is being distributed in two rounds. A total of 216 groups received grants of up to £12,000, totalling £2million in round one in February 2009. Faiths in Action is administered by the Community Development Foundation (CDF) on behalf of Communities and Local Government. For more information please visit

http://www.cdf.org.uk/web/guest/faiths-in-action

Ends

posted by

Asif Yusuf

 

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