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