This year there are an incredible 350 events for Inter Faith week being held across the country.
In just 5 years 1,100 projects have been set up, bringing together 1 million people from different backgrounds and faiths.
In the first four months in my role as Communities Minister I have made it my priority to travel around the country to meet individuals and groups involved in interfaith projects.
I’ve seen how Government-backed ‘Near Neighbours’ projects bring together people from all faiths and backgrounds in some of our most diverse and deprived communities.
In October I visited Bradford and spoke to graduates from the Near Neighbours Catalyst Programme, which offers free residential workshops for under 30s with different backgrounds and faiths.
WHAT DOES THE WORKSHOP DO?
The people I met —Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Humanist — had a new appreciation of other’s experiences of being a young person of faith in modern Britain. They also learnt how those experiences echoed their own.
It was clear that the workshops left them with a feeling of solidarity across faiths and, most importantly, lasting friendships that might not have been built without the programme.
To some these projects may seem rather small and local, but that is their strength.
They build friendships across communities, and create the networks of trust that help people to resolve difficult local issues, and overcome misunderstandings, suspicion and intolerance.
That’s why this week I announced £250,000 for the Common Good programme, which will fund community and interfaith groups in places that have seen an increase in diversity in recent years.
The fund will support a range of long term activities that bring neighbourhoods together, and help build trust and reduce tensions in these areas.
One inspiring project is the community garden led by a Polish woman in Caldmore, a village near Walsall.
Simple activities such as gardening and cooking have involved the whole village, bringing together Polish, Bengali, Pakistani, and White British communities. The garden received £3,700 in funding and it has already worked directly with over 1,300 people, including local schools.
This is just one example of the value of interfaith projects and their ability to build friendships between people across faiths – for people of all ages, and in rural and urban communities.
Inter Faith Week and the Inter Faith Network play a crucial role in highlighting the incredible work of volunteers and community groups around the country and I am proud that they have the Government’s support to expand, so together we can strengthen Britain’s most diverse communities.
Visit www.interfaithweek.org to see how you can get involved.