A PROGRAMME to bring together people of different faiths, in order to improve mutual understanding, has been hailed as a success.
The Near Neighbours scheme — a partnership between the Church Urban Fund, and the Archbishops’ Council — included a Small Grants Fund which awarded more than £3.5 million to 1100 community projects that seek to build trust between people across religious divides. It operates in the Midlands, Yorkshire, Lancashire, London, and elsewhere, from hubs in places such as Bradford, Birmingham, and Luton.
As a result of the work of the scheme over the past five years, 96 per cent of neighbours of different faiths agreed that they knew each other better; and 98 per cent said that there was a greater sense of community in their area.
The successes of the programme were celebrated at Near Neighbours’ national conference in Leeds, at the end of last month. The chairman of the Church Urban Fund’s Trustees, Canon Paul Hackwood, said: “What the conference showed us again was that difference can be a source of flourishing and human potential. There is no need to see difference as a threat to who we are or what we believe.
“It is the relational integration that has become the hallmark of Near Neighbours, which is the real antidote to hate and the extreme voices that support it. We were all encouraged by just how strongly people felt that there needed to be a real alternative to violence and prejudice.”