active citizenship, the home secretary, David Blunkett, will say today.
The home secretary will praise faith communities' engagement with the wider
and providing community leadership. Faith groups' social networks and
influence can encourage citizens to make their views heard in the political
process, he will say.
Speaking ahead of delivering the Heslington lecture at York University tonight, Mr Blunkett said: 'Faith can be the building blocks and the glue of community.
It plays a vital role in people's lives - even for those of us who are not
overtly religious. All of us, our basic values, our sense of right and
wrong, are shaped by our community and its religious heritage.
'Understanding the role faith plays in people's lives is
vital to community cohesion and good race relations. Many faith groups reach
out to the wider community, providing facilities, undertaking practical
projects and harnessing their deep commitment and drive to improve
'Of course, while we want people to gain strength and
contribute, we have to recognise that there are risks in channelling this
through faith. When we want people both to participate in the political
process through their faith community, but to be part of and active beyond
it - and sometimes despite it - this is the real challenge.
'The challenge for faith communities is to develop the
skills and confidence of their members to play an active role in civil
society - speaking and acting not just on behalf of their faith, but on
behalf of the local community as a whole.
'The 11 September placed the debate in the wrong context -
but it focused all of us on disentangling religious commitment from the kind
of religious 'fundamentalism' which can lead to extremism. We have to
understand what is happening in a world where young men and women can be
enjoined by their religious leaders to take their own lives and those of
others as suicide bombers. We are not completely untouched by these trends
in the UK.
'It is a worrying trend that young, second-generation
British Muslims are more likely than their parents to feel they have to
choose between feeling part of the UK and feeling part of their faith - when
in fact they should feel part of wider, overlapping communities. The issue
here is identity: whether people identify with the actual world in which
they live, or with another world they are taught about, which offers the
absolute certainties which day-to-day interaction can never do.
'We need to join those within faith communities who are
trying to resist this tendency, working together to isolate extremism.
Otherwise there is a real risk that instead of religion helping to build
civic society and a sense of belonging among those who might otherwise
become alienated, religion could actually increase that alienation.
'I am not trying to impose a new duty on faith groups to
engage with the formal political arena. I simply want all of us to recognise
that in a increasingly complex, connected world we all share the challenge
to find solutions to our common problems.'
The Home Secretary will deliver the Heslington lecture at Central Hall, University of York, at 17:30 on 30 October 2003.
2. The Heslington lecture is a public lecture which has taken place
annually at the University of York since the University was founded in the
1960s. Its purpose is to examine an aspect of the place of religion in the
modern world. Since the first lecture in 1965 it has attracted many eminent
speakers. While speakers have been drawn from other faiths, they and their
lectures have mostly been of a Christian tendency and this lecture was the
first to directly address faith diversity. Previous speakers include Paul
Boate ng MP (1996) and Baroness Warnock (2002).
3. A high-level steering group taking forward the review of the
government's interface with faith communities was set up this year to look
at ways of giving faith groups an input into policymaking and delivery. It
is due to report in December.
4. Fiona Mactaggart, the home office minister responsible for race and
community cohesion, is participating along with other government ministers
and faith leaders in a European conference in Rome on 30 and 31 October.
They will discuss how governments should be engaging with moderate elements
across faith communities to isolate extremism and promote social cohesion.