Headlines: December 19th, 2007

A consultation has been launched to look at how Government can help faith groups to engage with their local communities and with one another. “Face-to-Face and Side-by-Side” has been drawn up to look what is already being done and at what support might be given to facilitate more inter-faith dialogue and activity so faith groups can make a positive difference in the wider community.

The exercise forms part of the Government’s response to the report ‘Our Shared Future’ produced by the independent Commission on Integration and Cohesion. That set out practical recommendations on ways to build cohesion and a shared sense of belonging and confirmed the important role that inter-faith activity can play in that process as well as highlighting the need for more constructive conversations between people of faith and those of none.

The aim of the consultation is to discover what needs to be done to widen and deepen dialogue and social action. In particular it is designed to improve understanding of how best to build confidence in the benefits of partnership working and of the contribution that faith communities can make. It will also look into the extent to which local authorities and other public bodies are already working with faith communities and how to develop practices that work well. Finally it seeks to learn about some of the barriers to inter faith activity, especially related to the involvement of women and young people, and how these might be overcome.

The Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, said the involvement of faith groups was a key part in meeting the challenge of building strong resilient communities. The consultation would be an opportunity to find out how Government could support dialogue between faith groups and the circumstances in which inter faith activity was making a real difference to communities around the country. “That includes looking at how we can build upon the good work already going on in communities at local, regional and national level and develop a greater understanding of the contribution faith communities can make,” she said.