The Bishop of Leeds received the following written answer on 25th May 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the contribution of inter-faith engagement and cooperation to the Levelling Up agenda; and what plans they have, if any, to provide funding support towards the work of the Inter Faith Network, including for Inter Faith Week during 2023–24.
Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con): The department continues to take steps to support inter-faith community cohesion. For example, this government is supporting Dame Sara Khan’s independent review of Social Cohesion and Resilience which is due to report in the Autumn, and I am considering additional options to take forward.
On 25th April 2023, The Bishop of Lichfield made his maiden speech in a debate on the strength of parliamentary democracy in the UK, speaking on the importance of freedom of faith and belief, and the benefits of interfaith relationships and communication:
The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: My Lords, I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak in this House for the first time. I promise that I will be brief. I thank all noble Lords for their warm welcome and all the parliamentary staff and officers for their kindness and patience in explaining to me the procedures, traditions and geography of this extraordinary place.
Throughout my ministry I have had the joy of living and working in places of cheerful diversity—in Leicester, in south London and now in the West Midlands—and it is in the context of a diverse society that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has rightly asked this Question about the strength of our parliamentary democracy.
In 2010 the late Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI, spoke about parliamentary democracy in an address here in Westminster. He pointed out that democracy is a process rather than a value in itself—a process whose vitality depends on its being open to people who are guided by the values and commitments that inform their conscience. He asked the question,
“where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found?”.
On 19th January 2023, the Bishop of Carlisle spoke in a debate to mark the lead up to International Holocaust Memorial Day:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. Like so many others, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for this Motion. It provides an opportunity not only to hear such moving contributions but to express from these Benches our deep appreciation of the history and values that Christians and Jews have in common, as well as the importance we attach to our ongoing dialogue, understanding and attempts to work together for the common good. Our central Christian act of worship, the Eucharist, originated in Christ’s participation in the Jewish ceremony of Passover. We note the huge contribution that Jewish people have made to British society through the centuries, which is a great expression of the significance of faith in public life.
The Bishop of Manchester received the following written answer on 5th September 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Manchester asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure an (1) adequate, and (2) diverse, supply of food for those of (a) Orthodox Jewish faith, and (b) other faiths, in Northern Ireland.
“civil society and faiths can create and convene safe spaces where difference can be spoken with care and understanding can be deepened, truth revealed and progress made towards a common good”
On 10th December 2021 the Bishop of Birmingham spoke in a House of Lords debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on contemporary challenges to freedom of speech and the role of the public, private and third sectors in upholding it
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, as we have been hearing, speech is one of the most precious gifts for humanity, freedom of which is easy to take for granted, as we may do from week to week in this House, but even easier to abuse. Speech is so important that, at this season of the year, for people of Christian tradition, we even call the son of God’s appearance the word of God—the word made flesh
In the same scriptures in which we read that story, there is warning of the danger of the use of the tongue:
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
Of course, I do not refer to anyone who stands on the platform at Speakers’ Corner or any other venue of that kind. We remember also
“the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!”—
the blaze of instant phone recordings or a tweet out of context.
On 4th November 2019 Lord Leigh of Hurley asked the Government “how many universities in England have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism; and what steps they intend to take in respect of those which have not”. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Council of Christians and Jews, founded in the depths of the Second World War by Chief Rabbi Hertz and Archbishop William Temple. I applaud the noble Baroness’s long history of standing up for freedom of religion and belief. Like the noble Lord, the CCJ hears numerous reports of no-platforming, intimidation and lack of free speech. I fully accept that universities are autonomous, but will the Minister look for ways in which pressure can be applied to ensure that these standards are kept? Does she agree that mere exhortation is not really working?
On 10th June 2019 the House of Lords heard repeated a statement by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I echo the praise that has already been given to the emergency services following both Barking and the Grenfell disaster. I welcome the Statement’s recognition of the power of community and its commitment to a new and stronger partnership between residents and those who serve them, for trust to rebuilt and, in particular, for the council to listen and the community to be heard.
The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Singh, for his patient and insightful speech and to the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, for securing this debate. As a Christian minister, I hope that I can contribute with humility and sensitivity in this vital matter.
As extremists attempt to divide our communities, and even seek to hijack Christian symbols to do so, it is important to state clearly and loudly that it is the duty of all Christians in this country to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters who suffer hate speech, violence or prejudice.
On 17th October 2018 the House of Lords debated a motion from Communities Minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, “That this House takes note of the challenges posed by religious intolerance and prejudice in the United Kingdom.” The Archbishop of Canerbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, spoke in the debate. A transcript is below, with excerpts from the speeches of others in the debate:
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and others who have made this useful and important debate possible. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hain, I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said. I agree also with the passionate and clear setting out by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, of the threats and incidents that have occurred in recent years. However, I want to focus more on religious intolerance and prejudice. If I have one concern, it is how we bring together religious tolerance, and stand against the kind of things the noble Lord, Lord Hain, spoke about, while maintaining freedom of speech.
In his book, The Home We Build Together, the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, wrote:
“Society is not a house or a hotel. It should be a home”.
The rising tide of anti-Semitism, with which I am deeply familiar through work with the Chief Rabbi, and Islamophobia, which we in the Church are deeply familiar with through working with Muslim leaders across the country, are just two illustrations of the narrowing of those who feel truly at home in the UK today. This terrible, storm-ridden climate is affecting people across a whole range of religious traditions.
On 13th September 2018 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Popat, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they are taking to reassure the Jewish community over the impact of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom.” The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, spoke:
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