On 27th November 2014 the House of Lords debated a motion from the Crossbench Peer and former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, on ‘the role of religion and belief in British public life’. The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Rev David Urquhart spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to my colleague, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for shaping this debate and for the remarks just offered by the noble Baroness. It may be a great surprise to many of our fellow citizens that public religious figures should be asked to play a part at all in 21st century society. However, the least surprised in the city of Birmingham are my interfaith colleagues. They expect the leaders and members at a local parish level and at a national level in what they regard as the indigenous national religion to play a full part in society and to articulate the needs, values and beliefs of those who have faith on things that are a matter of importance to the whole of society, whether they are faithful or not. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham in Lords Debate on Religion and Belief in Public Life”
“Freedom of belief, including the freedom to change one’s belief, is like a canary in the mine of human rights. Abuses of religious freedom are often an early indication that all is not well….Where religious freedom is abused, peace and security often become more elusive.”
On 24th July 2014, Crossbench Peer Lord Alton of Liverpool led a short debate in the House of Lords to take note of international compliance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerning freedom of belief. The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, spoke in the debate. He spoke of the role of religious freedom as a marker for other freedoms, and the positive role religious freedom can play in strengthening democracy and countering radicalisation and terrorism. He also spoke of the responsibility held by religious institutions to speak together on the importance of religious freedom for all, and to model these freedoms themselves.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, like other Members of your Lordships’ House, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this debate and pay tribute to his great efforts on this vital issue. I thank him for his reference to the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. I have a personal connection with the charter, as one of my predecessors, William, was among the reverend fathers who advised the King to enshrine its principles of justice and freedom, including freedoms of religion. Magna Carta, despite our own failings—to which reference has been made—to live up to its logic, remains the seed of a tree of which Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is part, and under the cover of which all the peoples of the world should be allowed to stand. Continue reading “Bishop of Coventry – religious freedom “canary in the mine of human rights””
On 22nd July 2014, a Government statement on Birmingham Schools was repeated in the House of Lords by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, responded to the statement. He called for Government support of the Kershaw Report, asked for clarity on responsibility and accountability in the education system, and argued that the incident highlighted the need for greater understanding of faith and religion throughout civil society.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for bringing the Secretary of State’s Statement to the House and for the publication of Peter Clarke’s report. As he mentioned, this goes alongside Ian Kershaw’s report, which was published on Friday, about Birmingham City Council and it has the support of the Birmingham Trojan horse review group, of which I am a member. That group has published its own, wider recommendations in this complex and troubling period. Does the Minister agree that both reports are thorough and hard-hitting, and that there is much in common in their findings? Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham responds to Government statement on ‘Trojan Horse’”
On 24th June 2014, Baroness Perry of Southwark led a short debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the appropriate balance between the autonomy and the accountability of educational institutions. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, took part in the debate and spoke of his involvement in the investigation of allegations of mis-management in schools in Birmingham. The Bishop told the House how autonomy and accountability have been reconciled in Birmingham through setting up a diocesan board of education trust which has published an academies accountability framework. The Bishop argued for local and trusted arrangements to be developed, which are trusted by pupils, staff and parents, by the whole community and the Secretary of State.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to address the topic of autonomy and accountability in our educational institutions, particularly in our schools. As noble Lords can imagine, coming from Birmingham, this is a very pertinent topic. We are experiencing a perfect storm of anonymous allegations. Birmingham City Council is conducting various investigations, of which I am a part, into those allegations. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham takes part in debate on autonomy and accountability of educational institutions”
During the questions following an urgent statement in the House of Commons on extremism, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry MP, raised the important role played by the Near Neighbours programme in promoting community integration.
Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury): May I remind my right hon. Friend that, after the general election, practically the first meeting the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government attended was at Lambeth Palace, where all the nation’s faith leaders were present? He committed the Government to fund and support the Near Neighbours programme, which enables faith communities throughout the country to work together to promote integration and tackle extremism. If this “duff up the Home Secretary” urgent question has achieved nothing else this afternoon, it will at least, hopefully, better explain to the Opposition and others where the division of responsibilities lie in government for counter-terrorism on the one hand and community integration on the other.
Mrs May: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He is right to draw attention to the excellent work the Department for Communities and Local Government has been doing under the leadership of my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State. Indeed, my right hon. Friend, the noble Baroness Warsi has been doing very important work to bring communities together, particularly faith communities, to share their experiences and increase understanding between them. That is a vital part of the integration work that I would have hoped we all, across the Chamber, accept is necessary. We should support it wherever we see it.
On 19th November 2013, the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, took part in Lord Pearson of Rannoch’s debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the basis for the statement by the Prime Minister on 3 June that “There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror” (HC Deb, 3 June, col 1234). The Bishop of Birmingham spoke about the experiences of Christian-Muslim relations in Birmingham, highlighting positive engagement between those of different beliefs to promote peaceful and practical relationships.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for enabling us to talk about these very important matters, so in that sense I can agree with him. I also encourage him not to lose heart at sin and evil wherever they are found. There are remedies, and people of religion are often seeking to achieve them.
Of course, if I read my own scriptures, as I do every day, and select various pieces of them, I could easily form myself into some kind of sect which would be disapproved of, I hope, by most of civil society. None the less, our activities which are theological, seeking peace, are often turned into historical disappointments and much less than the ideal that we want to promote. That is true of all religions and, indeed, of all humanity. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham highlights strong inter-faith relations in Birmingham during debate on Islam”