(RNS) — Former British Prime Minister David Cameron once quipped that his religious convictions came and went like World War II-era radio’s patchy reception in the countryside. That is not a bad characterization of the British government’s relationship with the country’s faith communities as a whole.
Not that prime ministers have not made sincere efforts to connect with people of faith in the United Kingdom. Cameron’s coalition government did much to strengthen faith engagement, not least the creation of a Minister of Faith tasked with promoting religious tolerance, and the appointment of a special envoy for religious freedom.
More recently, the British government launched something called the Faith New Deal — a pilot project funding partnerships between local councils, schools and faith organizations to build stronger communities.
In 2019, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked me to do a pangovernment review into how it engages with faith. Perhaps his instinct was that the gap between government and faith was just too wide, too disconnected. As it turned out this instinct was spot on.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I set up faith roundtables that brought government and faith leaders together in a meaningful two-way relationship. Faith communities worked with the British government on negotiating and implementing COVID-19 guidance for places of worship and finding ways of engaging with harder to reach communities. Amid the turmoil of the pandemic, some groundbreaking work was done.
But despite all this brilliant partnership working during the pandemic, there is a prevailing sense that central government is not entirely comfortable with meaningful faith engagement.
Source : ReligionNews