faith in politics 2010
faith in public life
- British society has, over the last few decades, become increasingly diverse. There are now significant minorities of Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Sikhs as well as smaller communities of other faiths.
- The Churches have been engaged with promoting good relations between the different faiths throughout this period.
- Local faith forums are important for different faiths to come together around particular agendas.
- The terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 and London in 2005 have raised concerns about religious extremism, religiously motivated violence and the fragmentation of communities where different faiths might live in isolation from one another.
- In the past few years there has been a rise in anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, attacks on minority communities and the election of candidates from the far right to local councils, the London Assembly and the European Parliament.
- There has been some criticism that government funding and other policies place too much emphasis on Islam and that its policies in this area view Muslims through a ‘security lens'.
- Countering religious-inspired terrorism - In the UK, the police and security services remain vigilant against terrorism by using intelligence-gathering methods. The government has implemented a strategy of community cohesion with the aim of stopping extremist ideas from putting down roots in local communities - this is known as PREVENT. They have also supported the work of inter faith organisations to help break down barriers.
- Secularisation - Some people believe that UK is an increasingly secular society, and that this has led to the marginalisation of the perspectives of faith and in particular the Christian Churches. On the other hand the government has consistently defended ‘faith' schools and has greatly increased its consultation with faith communities.
- The Salt of the Earth - Churches play a huge role in increasing social capital and community cohesion. A range of studies have shown that the Churches are very active in community involvement, social action and social care. Many Churches and Christian organisations are directly involved in the provision of services to the most vulnerable in our society and receive funding from different levels of government for this. During a recession and tightening financial circumstances there are fears the most vulnerable will lose out and smaller voluntary organisations will be pushed out in favour of larger private sector providers with the resources to respond to tenders and offer economies of scale. What role can and should MPs and the government take in supporting and encouraging faith groups' involvement in the provision of services for our most vulnerable?
- The Light of the World - Churches have a role in speaking up for the most vulnerable in the public sphere, for example, condemning the detention of children of asylum seekers and denouncing the BNP for claiming to represent British Christians. However, some politicians have argued for faith to remain a private conviction and against religious values and motivation being expressed in politics.
- What role do you think faith communities should play in politics and public life?
- How can politicians and faith groups have a meaningful conversation about important social issues?
- How can religious freedoms be protected and religious differences respected, whilst still addressing concerns about extremism and terrorism?
Please note: the views and analysis outlined in this paper are those of the author alone and do not constitute a statement of policy on the part of the organisation the author belongs to.
Faith in Politics: Acknowledgement and thanks