Britain is a multi faith as well as a multi racial and multi cultural society and for many people their faith is the most important part of their identity. Even though only about 7% of the population attends a place of worship on a weekly basis, the vast majority identify with a religious tradition. According to the 2001 census:
71.6% stated they were Christian
2.7% stated they were Muslim
1.0% stated they were Hindu
0.6% stated they were Sikh
0.5% stated they were Jewish
0.3% stated they were Buddhist – Source Office of National Statistics
The issue of faith has come to be seen by Government as something that should be given greater attention. This emerging new interest springs from both an increased recognition of the role faith has in shaping local communities, and the fact that global dimension faith has also become a major factor. In a world of mass migrations and instant communication, an issue of faith in one place may have rapid consequences in many others. The war in Iraq and the conflict between different religious groups in Kashmir – all of which raised anxieties among, and potentially between, different communities here – are only the latest most recent examples. There is no question that the international dimension has helped to make community relations more fragile as we have very recently seen during the disturbances in France, and indeed here in the West Midlands. Any Government that seeks to enable and sustain cohesive communities cannot afford to be ignorant about a force such as religious faith, which has the power to motivate and mobilise people for good or ill. ‘we live in a Country where parallel communities exist with cultures and faiths failing to integrate’ Sir Ian Blair Metropolitan Police Commissioner speaking after 7th July bomb attacks in London.
Crucially 50 whole community faith leaders will be trained in faith awareness within a multi cultural diverse environment. These people will represent the entire community in the social inclusion agenda and continue to promote and build sustainable communities over time. Leadership training for these 'champions' will be key to their success.
The averred aim of our organisation and hence this project is to improve the understanding and communication between faith groups at a local level and leading to the development of cohesive communities and successful integration of all.
Our client base is drawn from host communities, established migrants and new refugees as well as those who have had Refugee status or Leave to Remain granted some time ago but who; (for various reasons - cultural pressure/ beliefs etc) have found it impossible to interact with other faith communities or their host community in any meaningful way.
When thinking of the West Midlands many people forget the region covers 5 Counties and 38 Local Authorities making it the largest Metropolitan Area in Europe. In addition to Birmingham, areas such as Stoke on Trent to the North, Coventry and Wolverhampton have large multi-faith communities with a lack of specialist services addressing the need for inter faith dialogue.
Figures from the West Midlands Consortium for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (WMCARS) dated 29th July 2005, suggest there are 76,530 refugees in the region. This is based on the following criteria (used by WMCARS):
Total NASS clients dispersed to the region and granted leave to remain: = 18,780
Home Office statistics estimate 25% of all refugees from other regions enter the West Midlands and remain, this figure equates to: = 39,073 (and is the proportion of all positive decisions granted since dispersal commenced)
The above figures exclude dependents at 15% adding: = 8,678
Between 1990 and 2000 between 10,000 to 15,000 refugees entered the region giving a total figure of around 76,530.
All figures in the WMCARS model are based on Home Office data.
In the West Midlands then we have a diverse mix of faiths and cultures from countries all over the world and now a new population of refugees who bring with them their own faiths, taught abroad and with little or no contextual understanding of living in a cohesive multi faith society in the UK.
The proposed project strength lies in its simplicity, namely the desire to build sustainable communities of knowledgeable, faith and race aware people successfully integrated together from all backgrounds with shared common values.
East West Trust seeks to develop and build on its existing successful programme of faith and hence cultural awareness events to the Asian Community; currently predominately Indian and Pakistani communities, to address the needs of refugee people from all faith backgrounds who are new to our shores and bring them together with people from the host community to promote racial harmony and facilitate effective integration into our multi faith society. We shall achieve this by:
- Creating social capital by binding people together in targeted 'ward' locations and developing local leadership and the capacity to organise;
- Training and empowering 50 committed local people, knowledgeable about their local area (from all faiths) to become whole community leaders and multi faith champions;
- Through inter faith/racial/cultural group forums discuss with participants (individual and group) faith and the role they do and could play in UK society - leading to better understanding of other faiths and mobilising the Christian and Muslim community leaders with a common message to assist in the development of a 'multi faith one community' concept.
OUTPUTS AND OUTCOMES
Training and awareness events will be delivered to 360 people from different faith groups representing both refugees and host community people. A further 4,000 are expected to attend the 60 forum sessions during the 3 year project.
A variety of handout material (numbering 8,000) relating specifically to local neighbourhoods and the racial/faith mix therein will be produced to heighten awareness of others beliefs, dispel myths surrounding both Christian and Muslim ethics and practices (in addition to other faiths).
Song playing in background is titled "Deep Jale" performed by Aradhna
Song playing on home page is titled "Gaao Re" performed by Aradhna