Faith groups unite with politicians and practitioners to address the role of faith in public space

Published: 13 March 2007 at 16:43

A new unit has been set up in response to the growing policy agenda for faiths as providers of services, as sites of community cohesion and in relation to policy concerns about the prevention of extremism around the world.

The Faiths and Civil Society Unit, Directed by Dr Adam Dinham, Reader in Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Health and Social Care, and currently Visiting Professor at the University of Calgary, aims to provide evidence and conceptual analyses of policy and practice in these specific areas drawing on the expertise and knowledge of fifteen Fellows from the voluntary, statutory and academic sectors, from a range of disciplines and across a variety of faiths.

The unit is Chaired by Lord Tyler of Linkinhorne, whose interest in House of Lords Reform includes the question of the representation of Faiths. Lord Tyler, together with informal ‘panels’ of informed experts, supports the work of Dr Dinham, who has researched and published in this area as the agenda has unfolded.

The launch of the unit took place at the House of Commons this month and attendees included parliamentarians from both Houses and all major parties as well as influential figures from national and regional agencies, think tanks and universities, here and overseas, and from a range of faith traditions themselves.

Dr Dinham on the need for such a unit commented:

“Faith plays a vital role in all societies.  It is a source of identity and can be a force for cohesion.”

“But faiths are often misunderstood in wider society as having an agenda for change which is all about their own very particular views of the world. True, some people of faith do feel that way but we are about facilitating a conversation between faiths and the rest of society which is open, positive, practical and constructive.”

“This new unit is evidence that Ministers will do everything possible to ensure that faiths engage in a positive dialogue with each other and the Government.”

Dr Dinham is currently writing a book comparing the UK, US and Canadian faith-based policy scenes.