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Funding sought for interfaith centre

15 November 2013

paul hillcox

Spotlight:Autumn Light by Paul Hillcox, awarded first prize in the faith category of the Interfaith Week photography competition. An exhibition in Birmingham Cathedral starts today and ends on 23 November 

Spotlight:Autumn Light by Paul Hillcox, awarded first prize in the faith category of the Interfaith Week photography competition. An exhibition in B...

A MULTI-MILLION-POUND centre to promote the diversity of the world's faiths and foster understanding and respect is planned for London.

The concept of Coexist House has been developed over several years by Cambridge University's Inter-faith Programme and the Coexist Foundation. At a Mansion House dinner last month, attended by faith and business leaders, the programme director, Professor David Ford, asked for creative and financial support to turn the "exciting vision of Coexist House into a compelling reality".

He said the new centre would be "be part-exhibition centre, media hub, sacred space, museum, place for meeting, and, above all, learning". It would be based in either a new building near St Paul's or Westminster Abbey, or incorporated into a new business development.

"Religion is one of the world's key challenges, both locally and globally" Professor Ford said. "We're not good at talking about religion in the UK and yet it's crucial for our communities and businesses to be more religiously literate in a globalised society. It is our desire and duty to break down prejudice and build understanding between faiths." The outgoing Lord Mayor of London, Roger Gifford, said: "Difference means diversity, and diversity means new ideas, creativity and innovation - something which all businesses need. This diversity is part of our strength, which is deepened by dialogue, and the mutual respect that grows from that dialogue."

The Archbishop of Canterbury told the 200 guests that Jesus had said you can't serve God and Mammon, but "God and the City, by contrast I think, are eminently mixable."

He said: "Faith is not a fading inconvenience which is there to get in the way of the otherwise enjoyable business of making money. The City of London is also - and sometimes faith leaders need to remember that - not a fading inconvenience."

BARONESS WARSI, Minister for Faith, speaking in Cambridge on Monday, described the Government as the "most pro-faith government in the West", writes Tim Wyatt. The present Government had undone the secularism of previous years and had promoted faith back to prominence in public life, she said.

She cited the Near Neighbours scheme, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government, as one ex- ample of the Government's commitment.

The scheme was commended by the Woolf Institute, an interfaith academic body, which examined projects in the scheme, which is run by the Church Urban Fund "to bring together people of different faiths and of no faiths to transform local communities for the better".

The Woolf report states: "The grants have had a snowballing effect: individuals who have participated in, or organised projects, often stated that they felt better equipped and more confident to develop projects in the future."

The authors warned, however, that effective delivery of the various projects funded by Near Neighbours depended largely on how experienced the organisers were. The projects that survived after central funding ceased were usually based in established community institutions, such as a church.

The report recommends that the funding include more support and advice for project-leaders about how to run and then evaluate initiatives. It also suggests including clergy of different faiths and non-religious institutions such as schools in the projects, and clarifying in the application process what each project is seeking to achieve.


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