The Parish Magazine June 2023

Serving the communities of Charvil, Sonning, and Sonning Eye since 1869

Serving the communities of Charvil, Sonning, and Sonning Eye since 1869


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feature — 1<br />

An independent report — published on 26 April and described as 'a landmark<br />

review into faith engagement' — has found the UK Government 'needs to<br />

recognise faith groups as a force for good'. It states that a better understanding<br />

of faith will help the Government tackle systemic issues such as forced marriages,<br />

child safeguarding and extremism.<br />

Colin Bloom, an independent faith<br />

engagement advisor, considered how<br />

government can best celebrate the<br />

contribution of faith groups, while<br />

tackling harmful practices. More than<br />

21,000 people responded to the public<br />

consultation and 22 recommendations<br />

for government have been set.<br />

Colin Bloom has held a number<br />

of roles in politics which have<br />

focussed on working towards greater<br />

representation of faith in politics.<br />

Previously he was executive<br />

director of the Conservative Christian<br />

Fellowship and director of Christians<br />

in Politics.<br />

As the government's faith<br />

engagement adviser, his role is to make<br />

recommendations to the communities<br />

secretary about how the government<br />

can best celebrate and support the<br />

contribution of faith groups, break<br />

down barriers and promote acceptance<br />

between faiths, and promote shared<br />

values while tackling cultures and<br />

practices that are harmful.<br />

In his review, Colin Bloom<br />

examined engagement with faith in<br />

a wide range of public institutions<br />

from the Civil Service and Armed<br />

Forces, to schools and prisons, and<br />

called on government to bring in<br />

a new programme of faith literacy<br />

training for all public sector staff,<br />

ensuring public servants understand<br />

those they are helping, and to increase<br />

partnership opportunities with faith<br />

groups who are already playing a<br />

valuable role in the social fabric of our<br />

society.<br />

Bloom noted that a better<br />

understanding of faith would also<br />

equip government to tackle issues<br />

such as forced marriage, of which there<br />

are estimated to be thousands a year<br />

in the UK; radicalisation in prison;<br />

and faith-based extremism, including<br />

the ongoing challenge of Islamist<br />

extremism, and the small but growing<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Parish</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong> - <strong>June</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 19<br />

Government needs to better understand faith,<br />

independent review claims<br />


trends of Sikh extremism and Hindu<br />

nationalism.<br />

<strong>The</strong> report also calls for appropriate<br />

regulation of out-of-school settings,<br />

including the faith-based sector, to<br />

safeguard the physical safety and<br />

wellbeing of children.<br />


Colin Bloom, said: 'For millions<br />

of people, faith and belief informs<br />

who they are, what they do and how<br />

they interact with their community,<br />

creating strong ties that bind our<br />

country together.<br />

'As we as a nation continue to<br />

become more diverse, so too does<br />

the landscape of faith and belief.<br />

Our government’s understanding<br />

of the role of faith in society must<br />

remain both current and alive to its<br />

evolutionary changes.<br />

'It must also not shy away<br />

from some of the challenges that<br />

exist in small pockets within faith<br />

communities, from forced and coercive<br />

marriages to faith-based extremism,<br />

financial exploitation, and child<br />

safeguarding. <strong>The</strong>se must not be<br />

consigned to the ‘too difficult’ box.<br />

'Greater understanding of faith<br />

in all its diversity will ensure that<br />

we remain a country that respects,<br />

celebrates and understands people of<br />

all faiths, beliefs and none.'<br />


Faith minister, Baroness Scott of<br />

Bybrook said:<br />

'As faith minister I will continue to<br />

shine a light on the important work of<br />

faith groups across the country, who<br />

play such an important role in public<br />

life. I welcome this review and thank<br />

Colin for his work – we will carefully<br />

consider the recommendations and<br />

I’ll make it my mission to continue to<br />

work closely with those of all faiths.'<br />

Bloom notes that there are many<br />

areas where government is already<br />

doing good work with faith groups,<br />

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including the Faith New Deal grant<br />

programme, the co-design of Covid-19<br />

guidance with places of worship, and<br />

tackling freedom of religion or belief<br />

internationally. He argues that this<br />

good practice should be built on and<br />

applied consistently across services to<br />

enable stronger and more integrated<br />

communities.<br />


<strong>The</strong> Government has stated that<br />

it will consider the findings and<br />

will respond in due course, but in<br />

the meantime, <strong>The</strong> Rev Dr Malcolm<br />

Brown, the Church of England’s<br />

director of faith and public life, has<br />

issued this response:<br />

'Faith is at the centre of people’s lives<br />

and churches and other faith groups are at<br />

the very centre of communities, providing<br />

both inspiration and practical support.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Church of England is involved<br />

in more than 35,000 initiatives in<br />

communities and works to tackle<br />

deprivation and promote social cohesion<br />

through church schools, chaplaincies<br />

in prisons and higher education and in<br />

thousands of practical programmes in its<br />

parishes.<br />

We welcome the recognition in the<br />

report of the need for religious literacy<br />

and a greater public understanding of the<br />

major world faiths.<br />

It is a fact that the majority of people<br />

in England and Wales identify with a<br />

religion, so faith is not a minority pursuit.<br />

We look forward to hearing how<br />

any training and education in the field<br />

of religious literacy can be done in<br />

partnership with religious communities<br />

and from a perspective that sees faiths in<br />

the round.'

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