THE Government has turned to the public to better understand how effectively it supports, understands, and interacts with faith communities in England.
The results of an online government survey, which went live on Friday of last week and runs until 11 December, will inform a national review, led by the Faith Engagement Adviser at the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Colin Bloom, into how best the Government should engage with religious groups in the country.
An introduction to the survey states: “The significant restrictions that have been put in place to control the spread of the virus have limited people’s ability to worship, practise and celebrate their faith as they normally would. This review began before the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is timely as the recommendations may well come to strengthen how Government engages with faith groups during the Covid-19 recovery phase and beyond.”
Once their ethnicity, faith and beliefs, and backgrounds have been established, respondents are asked whether faith organisations or religious communities have supported their neighbourhood, and in what ways, before and during the pandemic.
Other multiple-choice questions include: “Do you feel Government engages meaningfully with people of faith?” “Do you think Government understands people of faith?” and “Do you feel that freedom of religion or belief is under threat in the UK today?” It also asks whether the Charity Commission, local authorities, and public services such as schools and the NHS could do more to support registered faith charities.
There are questions about faith leaders, the Government’s faith literacy, religious education, and safeguarding. For example, it asks: “Have you ever felt coerced by members of your own religious community into doing something against your wishes?”
The survey has been welcomed by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who urged as many people as possible to take part. She said on Tuesday: “Faith is at the heart of so many of our communities, across the length and breadth of the country. This welcome consultation from the Government is an opportunity to demonstrate and explore how faith enriches and empowers our lives and our relationships with one another.
“I believe it can play a fundamental role in building a stronger, more tolerant society for the future. I would urge as many people as possible to get involved by responding to the consultation, ensuring that the voices of our faith communities are heard.”