Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Government Consultation on 'Faith Engagement'

The government has just launched a survey on how it engages with faith groups, with an online consultation open for 4 weeks. Here's part of the introduction:
On 10 October 2019, the government announced that Colin Bloom had been appointed as the Faith Engagement Adviser at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
As Faith Engagement Adviser, Colin is leading a review into how best the government should engage with faith groups in England. He will make recommendations to the Communities Secretary about how the government can best celebrate and support the contribution of faith groups, break down barriers and promote acceptance between faiths, and promote shared values while tackling cultures and practices that are harmful.
Colin Bloom’s initial proposal is to structure the review around 4 main sections:
  • the first section asks the question, “Are faith groups, places of worship and people of faith a force for good in society?”
  • the second section explores the extent to which government and its agencies have sufficient faith literacy and considers the partnership between faith groups and the State
  • the third section looks at some aspects where harm might be caused through religious or faith-based practices and a review of the government’s role in tackling them
  • the fourth and final section will be a set of recommendations for the government to consider and respond to
The call for evidence will pose a series of questions around how those of all faiths, or none, perceive the government’s engagement with faith groups. Because the review is specifically about faith and religion, priority will be given to responses that fit within those parameters. However, space is given for respondents to share their views in a way that they feel is appropriate.
Respondents should feel free to make use of a range of sources, reports, case studies, surveys or even personal anecdotes to underpin their points where a general response is requested.
There will doubtless be well co-ordinated campaigns by interest groups to flood the responses with a particular message. It would be great if it was just filled out by ordinary people, so the government hears what's actually happening, rather than just getting the same shrill voices by another means. 
A few notes on the survey itself
 - you may find some of the questions phrased in an odd way, I wouldn't describe myself as 'having a Belief' - I have a relationship with God through Jesus which is sustained and expressed in conversation (aka prayer), action, attitudes etc., the same way that most relationships are sustained and expressed. I 'believe' that vaccines will make 2021 a better year than 2020 in terms of covid, but that thought/process is of a completely different order to my faith. There's a definition of 'Belief' on the very last page of the survey, which is ok, but it would be better to spell it out on page 1 so people know what they're agreeing to!
 - there are 50 questions, with opportunities to say both what positive contributions churches/faith groups make to society, schooling etc., and what you think is negative. There are plenty of comments boxes, so even where an answer is multiple choice, there's usually a chance to expand on your ideas. 
 - the survey is happy to take citations and evidence, so I would think the more of this you can supply the better. I've answered one of the earlier questions, on the positive impact of faith on society, with quite a few hyperlinks, covering everything from John Wesley to Street Pastors.
 - if you're not fussed about commenting, you could take 15 minutes to complete this. But you could spend hours on it. 
'History is made by those who turn up' - I never know how much notice is going to be paid to these things, but it doesn't appear to be a survey with an agenda (like previous government ones on, e.g., marriage). A good clutch of positive responses from Christians, church leaders and Christian agencies may be a fruitful use of time. 

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