DANIEL SINGLETON: Under the current government, there is a sense of new possibilities for faith-based social action, but there is also a lack of resources and imagination
WARWICK HAWKINS of the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) introduces the work of CLG’s Faith Engagement team and outlines some of the Government’s recent efforts to include religious organisations in public life.
DAVID BARCLAY: Faith-based social action can be a valuable mechanism for building lasting friendships across religious and cultural difference, but these can only begin to flourish in an environment that is open to public expression of religious perspectives.
THERESE O’TOOLE ET AL: Thanks to events such as the Rushdie affair and the publication in Denmark in 2005 of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim political activism has been associated primarily with protest. The last fifteen years have however seen Muslims increasingly participating in governance. Though less remarked on, this type of political action has had a significant impact on national politics in Britain.
STEVEN KETTELL: Participation in the Big Society has been welcomed by the majority of religious organisations as a means of promoting a greater role for faith in the public sphere. Such an outcome, however, appears to be unlikely. Assumptions of a link between faith and volunteering are flawed, and processes of secularisation pose serious challenges.
PAUL BICKLEY: It has been three years since the good ship Coalition embarked on its course; three years since Cameron and Clegg stood in 10 Downing Street’s rose garden heralding a ‘new politics’. Three years, arguably, in which the pessimists have been vindicated. But if the grand narrative has been one of disappointment, what can be said of the relationship between the government and faith groups?
DANIEL NILSSON DEHANAS ET AL: The Conservative-led government has been bold in giving Christian heritage a central place in its rhetoric and in initiatives such as Near Neighbours. In multi-faith contemporary Britain, is the government charting a course that shuts out burgeoning populations such as British Muslims?
ADAM DINHAM: The British people love their welfare state almost as much as they used to love their church. Yet the Coalition government is systematically dismantling it in the name of small government and big society. Like the church, it isn’t till it’s gone that we’ll miss it, and the future of both – and Britain’s full diversity of faith traditions – are intertwined in complex and significant ways.