‘Government needs to better understand faith’, independent review claims
East London Mosque in Whitechapel (Image credits: Evening Standard)
A landmark review into faith engagement has found the government needs to recognise faith groups as a force for good.
Colin Bloom, Independent Faith Engagement Advisor, considered how government can best celebrate the contribution of faith groups, while tackling harmful practices.
More than 21,000 people responded to the public consultation and Colin Bloom has set 22 recommendations for the government on 26 April, 2023.
In his review, Bloom examined engagement with faith in a broad range of public institutions – from the Civil Service and the Armed Forces, to schools and prisons – and called on the government to bring in a new programme of faith literacy training for all public sector staff, ensuring public servants understand those they are helping, and to increase partnership opportunities with faith groups who are already playing a valuable role in the social fabric of our society.
Bloom noted that a better understanding of faith would also equip government to tackle issues such as forced marriage, of which there are estimated to be thousands a year in the UK; radicalisation in prison; and faith-based extremism, including the ongoing challenge of Islamist extremism, and the small but growing trends of Sikh extremism and Hindu nationalism.
Bloom also calls for appropriate regulation of out-of-school settings, including the faith-based sector, to safeguard the physical safety and wellbeing of children.
Colin Bloom, the government’s Faith Engagement Adviser said, “For millions of people, faith and belief informs who they are, what they do and how they interact with their community, creating strong ties that bind our country together.”
“As we as a nation continue to become more diverse, so too does the landscape of faith and belief. Our government’s understanding of the role of faith in society must remain both current and alive to its evolutionary changes.”
“It must also not shy away from some of the challenges that exist in small pockets within faith communities, from forced and coercive marriages to faith-based extremism, financial exploitation, and child safeguarding. These must not be consigned to the ‘too difficult’ box.”
“Greater understanding of faith in all its diversity will ensure that we remain a country that respects, celebrates and understands people of all faiths, beliefs and none.”
Faith Minister, Baroness Scott of Bybrook said, “As Faith Minister I will continue to shine a light on the important work of faith groups across the country, who play such an important role in public life.”
“I welcome this review and thank Colin for his work – we will carefully consider the recommendations and I’ll make it my mission to continue to work closely with those of all faiths.”
Bloom notes that there are many areas where government is already doing good work with faith groups, including the Faith New Deal grant programme, the co-design of COVID-19 guidance with places of worship, and tackling freedom of religion or belief internationally. He argues that this good practice should be built on and applied consistently across services to enable stronger and more integrated communities.
The UK government has said that it will consider the findings and will respond in due course.