A VISION to create "one of the most significant interfaith
centres in the world" in the City of London was unveiled on
Wednesday night at the launch of a £20-million fund-raising
The planned centre, Coexist House, is the idea of Dr David Ford,
Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge; and is
supported by the Inner Temple, the Corporation of the City of
London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Coexist
"Coexist House is designed as much for a secular audience as a
religious audience and will not promote any one particular faith,"
the trustees say in a summary of their feasibility study. "It is a
civic endeavour which would improve the way people understand
religions and beliefs in all their variety. Nevertheless, it will
offer a spiritual space, hospitable to all, in the heart of
No location has been identified for the centre, which will open
in phases. "The initial phase will be a space within a cultural hub
or adjoining academic location," the trustees say. "The concept
will progress to becoming an anchor tenant in a mixed-use
development, possibly as part of the refurbishment of an iconic
building. The final phase could be a stand-alone Coexist House.
"We believe Coexist House to be the most exciting and innovative
interfaith project in this country and perhaps also in Europe,"
Professor Ford was expected to say in a speech on Wednesday night.
"We want it to be the most influential and impressive interfaith
project in the world."
The Coexist Foundation is already operating in what it calls its
"soft phase". It runs the Cambridge Coexist Leadership Programme
with the support of the Department for Communities and Local
Government; and is working with the Times Cheltenham
Literature Festival and the Greenbelt Festival.
It has also provided funding and leadership support for the
Religion Media Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London. "This
will be a new facility, modelled on the highly successful Science
Media Centre, to be made available to all journalists," Professor
Ford said. Last week, the Foundation organised a pilgrimage through
London from London Central Mosque, Regent's Park, to the Central
Synagogue in Great Portland Street, and then on to Westminster
Abbey; before gathering outside Parliament and St Thomas'
The event was designed "to affirm a shared commitment to
freedom, equality, democracy and respect for life".
"The religion agenda is too often hijacked by extremists who
pervert the message of their faith to meet their own political
ideals," Professor Ford said. "Coexist and Cambridge are working
hard to emphasise the distinctive nature of the different faiths
while also celebrating their common ground and their shared
imperative for peace."
"Bad things happen when good people don't stand up and be
counted," the Dean of Coventry, the Very Revd John Witcombe, said.
"The overwhelming majority of faithful people in this country are
on the side of the angels and want to live peacefully and safely in
our democratic society."
The Team Rector of East Greenwich, the Revd Margaret Cave, said:
"It is good and right that in these troubled times people of faith
show solidarity with their sisters and brothers as people of love
The director of programmes for Coexist, Michael Wakelin, said:
"There has never been a more important time for something like
New premises. The UK's oldest interfaith
organisation, the Council for Christians and Jews, this week moved
into new offices at Collaboration House - a multifaith office hub
in Charlotte Street, London, established by the Jewish entrepreneur
and philanthropist Maurice Ostro.