Monday at the University of Surrey, Guildford, for the relaunch of the South East England Faith Forum. Bishop Christopher Hill has been working hard with representatives of faith communities all over the South East. The University tself is engaged in putting together a really interesting Multifaith Centre, ( see Ruth Gledhill) — a nice caff with a chapel, synagogue, mosque and gurdwara attached.
Regional government in the South East isn’t exactly dynamite on the streets, but this day wasn’t about regionalism. It was about working together and getting involved. The Government sees and works with Third Sector groups in a particular way, and anyone with higher ambitions to engage than the Amish needs to learn how. Monsignor John Devine from Warrington, who heads up faith involvement with regional government in the North West told us about the culture changes involved in working beyond classic silos — “I found I was telling stories and they were counting stuff.” Counting stuff in the North West brought faith groups above the radar, and established the almost spooky way in which they are most active at exactly the places need is highest. Being able to describe value faith adds to build social capital enlightens everybody plenty good, and helps to dispel the gobsmacking religious illiteracy in much local government and the press. It was very inspiring to meet Taki Jaffer who has been doing some really pioneering work with the Portsmouth Race Equality Network. Discussions in the public square now are often haphazard and sporadic, and suffer from ignorance, prejudice and religious illiteracy. The best that could come out of SEEFF would be some process of scoping and quantifying the considerable and obvious value faith communities add to the region’s social capital.