On 15th March 2018 the Minister for Faith, Lord Bourne, repeated a statement made by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the new Integrated Communities Green Paper. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, there is a great deal in this Statement and in the strategy that I welcome. It promises a big and positive difference in what the Government are doing to improve integration. It is good to see in the Green Paper initiatives such as the Near Neighbours Catalyst leadership programme, to which the Minister has recently referred. It is good to see that singled out for praise. However, there is some anxiety that Catalyst and other valuable Near Neighbours activity might have to come to an end as a result of a reduction in overall funding for Near Neighbours and the for the small grants fund. I am sure that that is far from the Government’s intention, and I wonder whether the Minister can give an assurance that he will look at the impact of any funding changes as part of the assessment of this new strategy. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth welcomes Government integration strategy, raises concern about Near Neighbours funding”
On 6th December 2016, Lord Bourne repeated a Government statement made in the House of Commons about the review published by Dame Louise Casey. The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, welcomed the review and commended programmes such as Near Neighbours for their potential to help social integration.
The Lord Bishop of Winchester My Lords, this review is very welcome for its frank and open-eyed survey of the social realities of our country. The Church of England is present and engaged in communities everywhere in the country. The importance of the work of schools, including faith schools, features largely in the review. I welcome the thrust of its approach and recommendations in relation to schools. We believe in British values, along the lines of the rich understanding of values explored in this Chamber last Friday. We will seek to respond to the review’s legitimate challenges to faith leaders.
Continue reading “Bishop of Winchester responds to statement on the Casey Review”
On 5th May 2016 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, answered a written question from Karl McCartney MP, on Near Neighbours:
Karl McCartney (Lincoln): To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what progress has been made on the Near Neighbours programme. 
Mrs Caroline Spelman: The Church Commissioners welcome the Government’s recent announcement of a further £1.5 million for the Near Neighbours programme, which is administered by the Church Urban Fund.
This third round of funding for Near Neighbours will help it build on its successful track record of delivering projects up and down the country to transform local areas by strengthening relationships between those of different religious and ethnic backgrounds on issues of shared concern.
The Near Neighbours programme has offered small grants between £250 and £5,000, providing seed capital for local groups and organisations who are working to bring together neighbours, to develop relationships across diverse faiths and ethnicities in order to improve their communities.
The Near Neighbours grants fund has so far awarded seed capital worth £3.66m to over 1,120 projects. These projects have impacted the lives of 941,000 people and 71% of projects have continued to run after the initial seed capital was spent. All Near Neighbours projects are designed to change hearts and minds by bringing together different communities within a neighbourhood so that they can work together on issues of shared concern and common values.
More information on Near Neighbours can be found on its website at: https://www.cuf.org.uk/how-we-help/near-neighbours
On 5th May 2016 MPs asked questions in the House of Commons to Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, on behalf of the Church Commissioners. Questions were asked on same sex marriage, Near Neighbours, Iraq, apprenticeships and ethical investment:
Continue reading “Church Commissioner questions: same sex marriage, Near Neighbours, Iraq, apprenticeships, ethical investment”
On the 27th January 2016 Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the risk that Christians could be recorded as having committed an anti-Muslim hate crime from April 2016 by preaching the divinity of Christ or by reading aloud sections of the Bible in public, such as 1 John, Chapter 4, verses 1 to 3.” The Rt Revd John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, asked a follow-up question criticising the phrasing of Lord Pearson’s question and highlighting the contribution of religion to the enrichment of public life. The transcript in full is available below.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that Questions phrased in this manner are not conducive to building positive relations between faith communities, in particular with Muslim communities, as we are endeavouring to do in the church at a time when Muslims are feeling unfairly stigmatised? Does he further accept that Muslims, and people of all faiths, greatly enrich our society and make a significant contribution to the common good? Continue reading “Bishop of Worcester “stigmatising Muslim communities not conducive to community cohesion””
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.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury asked Her Majesty’s Government what is being done to mitigate the social and cultural consequences of the weakening of community life in the United Kingdom.
The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, will the Minister join me in welcoming this morning’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that the Near Neighbours scheme—a very successful collaboration between faith groups and government—is being extended for a further two years? Does he also agree that the scheme is an excellent example of strengthening social cohesion in ways that are sensitive to local dynamics, and that it could serve as a model for communities up and down the United Kingdom?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The right reverend Prelate is of course right to raise the issue of the Near Neighbours scheme. It is a successful scheme in which the Church of England works with local communities, and it shows how communities and wider faith groups can come together. My noble friend who is sitting to my right famously said, “This Government does do God”. We work with people of all faiths across the country to ensure that communities are vibrant and working well together.
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”