Faith: too significant to ignore

In the FaithAction offices earlier this year, when we began knocking around ideas for a phrase to serve as a discussion starter, we had no idea of how potent it would become. What a difference a couple of months can make. When we first discussed ‘Too Significant to Ignore’, the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ had not yet reared its head, the ‘Arab Spring’ could still be viewed as a positive thing, not many of us knew the Arabic symbol for N (Nazarene)and the Trussell Trust –they behind the nation’s Food Banks – seemed to be the only effective voice holding the Government reform agenda to account.

In spite of David Cameron’s declaration that Great Britain is a Christian countryfaith seemed to be far from the centre of the public discourse. This statement of personal opinion is very much in contrast with, for example, the Office of Faith-basedinitiatives in the White House, now an established part of bothRepublican and Democratic administrations.

Over the next few weeks, we will be talking more on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society’s work around the Covenant, which local authorities and local faith organisations are signing in commitment to work together to serve their communities.

But things have moved on. Faith, for better or worse, is too significant to ignoreAnd yet, again and again, faith is notplanned for, but merely reacted to; which is surely absurd fornon-government institutions that still serve as a point of connection for over half the population of the UK. Most of those who own a faith may not see this as a disadvantage, but as a key part of what makes them who they are. And, yes,some are willing to die for it! That doesn’t seem like something that should just be passed over.

And what of those Food Bank volunteers? Often, they are people of faith coming face-to-face with poverty and needsthat many of us struggle to comprehend as being part of UK society. It is a concern, maybe, for Conservative CentralOffice to see the older white middle class woman on TV; wearing Trussell Trust aprons, discussing the needy folk they meet every day, and looking awkward when asked about the state of benefits system.

Faith is not all fanaticism or flakiness – it cannot be confined to one day a week, and it can cause people to act outside of what can be considered their own best interest for a greater good. Here are some examples of people I know: Faith causes a Christian couple in London to open their home to strangers needing a bed for the night after sleeping rough; the Gurdwarain Birmingham (like so many throughout the UK,) feedswhoever comes to the door; those who give their time to mentoring young people who have never had a consistentadult interest in their lives. Then there are those who are risking their well-being overseas; pastors who won’t abandon their flock even in the face of Ebola in West Africa; those who are organising aid to respond to the needs in Syria and Iraq despite risk to life and reputation.

Faith has far more significance and impact for good, whichthis country has not yet grasped.

The Blue Labour movement in the Labour Party, with its roots in Christian Socialism and connection of family, flag andfaith, gives a prominence of consideration to the role faith can play in party politics.

Over the next little while, we will be challenging the politicalparties regarding their response and plan for faith. Why not join us and ask your local politicians the same?

Tell them that faith is too significant to ignore!

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