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Trust in religious minorities rises at times of crisis, report suggests

07 July 2017


Respect: members of the public queue to place flowers at the scene of the Finsbury Park attack, in London, last month

Respect: members of the public queue to place flowers at the scene of the Finsbury Park attack, in London, last month

TRUST in faith and community groups increases in a crisis, when confidence in the nation decreases, new international research from the interfaith Woolf Institute suggests.

Its report Trust in Crisis, released today, analyses how people and communities across four European cities — London, Rome, Paris, and Berlin — reacted when confronted by a crisis. Triggers include an economic struggle, an influx of refugees, austerity measures, terrorism, the rise of political nativism, and dissatisfaction with the Establishment.

It concludes that the social and economic challenges arising out of these crises are breeding a new form of “quiet citizenship”, by which individuals contribute to social groups across political, religious, and ethnic divides, without recognition or reward, to change the state of public affairs. This was most noticeable among faith communities, the report says.

“In the wake of these crises, faith-based groups are becoming more energetic and engaged in public life, whether as providers of emergency services (such as foodbanks, drop-in centres and credit lending), or as voices speaking out against policies deemed unfair and unjust,” it says.

“Faith-based groups have strengthened their support for migrants and the socially and economically disadvantaged; outspoken and active, for example, with regard to refugee integration in the UK, France, Italy and Germany.”

In an online study of 1637 British adults, conducted by YouGov to complement the report, more than half thought that their community was strong enough to offer the same help and support as the Government, or even more.

More people also said that they felt closer to their local community (28 per cent) than to the UK (24 per cent) or to a constituent nation (20 per cent). This connection to the local community was stronger for women (32 per cent) than men (24 per cent).

In the UK, the report says, “political and media debates around Brexit reflected, and perhaps crystallised, public anxieties across several distinct registers: dissatisfaction with centralised government and the institutions of the European Union; fears around the actual and perceived consequences of current patterns of migration to Europe; and concerns around the disparities between those at the top and bottom of society.”

Since the financial crisis in 2008, 68 per cent of people in the UK had volunteered, or donated money and resources, to “plug the gaps” in their community, the survey found. Almost half (47 per cent) the people who had taken part in charity or community work said that they had done so out of a sense of duty.

Only one in ten (12 per cent) thought that their local community was less reliable than the Government. Those who identified as religious, however, were less critical of the Government (46 per cent) compared with those with no religious identity (54 per cent).

The founder director of the Woolf Institute, Dr Ed Kessler, said: “The tragedies the UK has faced in the last few weeks alone have placed the importance of local and faith-based communities into sharp focus. Trust in Crisis identified that faith and minority communities are the key to cohesion, not the driver of division, as is so often reported.

“We must celebrate this new kind of citizenship: those people in our community who are taking it upon themselves to provide support and unite our local communities.”

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