Westminster Interfaith: Promoting Dialogue Between People of Faith

The agency of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster for Interreligious Dialogue

Westminster Interfaith Newsletter

Issue 65 – February 2010

Appointment of new faith advisers

Communities Secretary John Denham, who has responsibility for public policy on faith, has announced the appointment of 13 new faith advisers who will act as a 'sounding board' to advise on effective engagement with faith communities, and the impact of Communities and Local Government policy on faith communities. While recognising the significant contributions that faith communities have made to work on key issues such as homelessness and tackling poverty at home and abroad, Mr Denham is keen to stress the importance of respecting faith in its own right and not as a prop to Government when it has a problem to solve. The 13 advisers, all experts in their chosen field, will enhance ministerial understanding of, and engagement with, faith communities nationally.

Churches Together in England

Membership of new panel of faith advisers

Government already engages with faith communities through the Faith Communities Consultative Council (FCCC) and their important role will continue. However over recent months John Denham has said that he wants to see as many channels of communication open as possible and this includes hearing from a wide range of expert voices.

John Denham said: "This new panel brings together an unprecedented wealth of knowledge and experience that will help advise on the big issues facing society such as the economy, parenting, achieving social justice and tackling climate change. For millions of people the values instilled by their faith are central to shaping their behaviour. We should continually seek ways of supporting and enhancing the contribution faith makes to the decision-making process on the central issues of our time. Each adviser is has an outstanding track record of achievement. Together they will help inform Government on the views and values of faith communities, enabling us to learn from the unique insights that faith groups bring to contemporary issues."

The 13 new advisers come from a range of backgrounds and faith perspectives and include serving Bishops, academics and local activists. They were selected for their commitment to faith and the diverse experience in their chosen careers.

The members of the panel are:

  • Canon Dr Alan Billings – Formerly Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at the University of Lancaster.
  • Dr Harriet Crabtree – Director of the Inter Faith Network for the UK.
  • Marcia Dixon – Editor of Keep the Faith, a publication distributed to black majority churches.
  • Dr Doreen Finneron – Founder and director of the Faith Based Regeneration Network.
  • Jenny Kartupelis – Director of the East of England Faiths Council and Fellow of the Faiths and Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths College.
  • Wakkas Khan – Director of the Exploring Islam Foundation and a founding member of the Radical Middle Way.
  • Alveena Malik – A Principle Associate at the Institute of Community Cohesion and a Trustee of the Muslim Institute.
  • Mehri Niknam – Founder and director of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation.
  • Rosalind Preston – President of the Jewish Volunteer Network and Chair of Nightingale House.
  • Dr Jasdev Singh Rai – General Secretary of the British Sikh Consultative Forum and Director of the Sikh Human Rights Group.
  • Bishop Tim Stevens – Anglican Bishop of Leicester and Founder and Chair of the Faith Leaders Forum of Leicester.
  • Arjan Vekaria – President of Shree Kutch Leva Patel Community (UK) and the Hindu Forum of Britain.
  • Prof Paul Weller – Head of Research and Commercial Development, Faculty of Education, Health and Sciences and Professor of Inter-Religious Relations, University of Derby.

John Denham continued: "Given that faith plays a defining role in many lives, anyone wanting to build a more progressive society should not ignore the powerful role of faith and the strong values their communities hold. Government needs to have an understanding of this relationship – a relationship that shapes peoples behaviour – in order to help develop public policy that is relevant to our society. The relationship between faith and government will however not always be easy and some faith communities will no doubt sometimes disapprove of government decisions. Likewise Government should not shy away from honest debate or criticism when warranted and that this should not exclude any faith."

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