THE Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, said last week that the £5 million that the Government had put into the Near Neighbours scheme (News, 18 November 2011) was money “extremely well spent”.
Mr Pickles and the Archbishop of Canterbury attended an event organised by Near Neighbours at the Shri Vallabh Nidhi temple in Waltham Forest, on Thursday of last week. Four groups who had received grants from the scheme gave presentations about their work. They included a project that brought together Christians and Muslims to promote street safety, and an interfaith mentoring project.
“Our faith groups play a vital role in our communities with a strong tradition of giving back, improving the lives of those around them through practical action,” Mr Pickles said. “It’s great to hear from communities in East London that are taking up Near Neighbours with such enthusiasm.”
The Near Neighbours co-ordin-ator for East London, the Revd Tim Clapton, said that the scheme was “not just about making grants. It’s about inspiring new ideas and relationships, giving people of faith confidence to engage in new ways in their local community.”
In an address to the meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury defined a successful neighbourhood as one where the local community realised that “this environment doesn’t belong to any one of us”; but, instead, it was “everybody’s neighbourhood [and] everybody’s community, just as it is everyone’s world”.
He said that “the needs and hopes of our neighbour” should be seen as “not a burden, not a problem, but a gift. . . it’s when we see that gift in one another that the community really comes alive.”