The tribute came from regeneration minister Sally Keeble at the launch of the Dudley Council of Faiths at Dudley Town Hall. The minister is the chair of the Inner Cities Religious Council which brings together Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Jews to work together to combat disadvantage in towns and cities.
'Faith communities are integral to the creation and development of justice and equality in our society. All faiths share common values. Communities are key both to combating poverty and overcoming the prejudice that often divides society.
'The initiative in Dudley is especially welcome at a time when the international situation is leading to a backlash against some people here at home. Some Muslims and Sikhs have been singled out for attack, and their religious buildings targeted. This has caused real fear for these communities, and sadly these fears have persisted.
'The government is clear that such actions have no place in our society. Harassment of Muslim and Sikh people is completely wrong: indeed the government has welcomed the support that many members of these two communities have given to the campaign against international terrorism.
'The Inner Cities Religious Council, which advises the government on faith issues, has provided a bedrock for the work on inner city renewal and combating poverty, and also the building of racial and religious tolerance. I am sure that the Dudley initiative will play a similar and very constructive role at local level.'
1. As chair of the Inner Cities Religious Council, Sally Keeble wrote to all the major faith communities setting the Government's commitment to oppose discrimination and harassment on the grounds of religion in the wake of the September 11th attack on America.
2. The Inner Cities Religious Council, which includes representatives from all major faith communities in the UK, including Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Jewish, was set up in 1992 to advise the Government on urban policy. Its origins are in the Church of England's 'Faith in the City' report, written partly in response to the inner city disturbances of 1981.