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Community Relations

Volume 615: debated on Thursday 13 October 2016

The Church of England, through its presence in every community and its large network of schools, is an enormous asset in building community relations. As we have just discussed, Church of England schools play a leading role in value-based education. That building of trust, awareness and community is an important bulwark against the spread of extremism.

With extremism being such a great threat to the UK, what plans does the Church of England education office have to expand its “What if Learning” approach, which was recently successfully piloted in more than 20 schools?

The Church promotes a number of schemes around the country to counter extremism and improve relations. The “What if Learning” scheme in schools has proved to be a good example of how we can help children from a very young age to understand the important principles of our society and the tolerance that we need to show to others of different faiths and points of view. We must also think about how we reach adults. I commend two schemes: the Church’s Living Well Together initiative, and the Near Neighbours initiative. I should like to take this opportunity to invite colleagues to hear more about those initiatives on 23 November at 4 pm, after the autumn statement, in the Jubilee Room.

Recent research on extremism suggests that a sense of humiliation, particularly among traumatised communities and individuals, is a major driver of extremism. Are the Church Commissioners aware of the need to look at bullying and traumatisation?

The hon. Lady is right that humiliation is a strong emotion that can lead to people taking strong positions and actions as a consequence. The Church is not just looking at that, but has rolled out those important initiatives. I commend to her initiatives such as Near Neighbours, funding for which came from the Department for Communities and Local Government, which demonstrated that, in our cities, there is a great opportunity to bridge the gap and speak into the humiliation that some people feel.

Does the right hon. Lady agree that it is imperative that those of other faiths are not left isolated in our communities, and that more help should be offered to facilitate community events to establish relationships that span the divides of religion?

The hon. Gentleman can speak with feeling on that subject. One of the most important things that the Christian denominations can do is work together to reach across to people of other faith, with whom we have a great deal in common, and defuse some of the misrepresentations of those faiths, so that the wider secular aspects of society know that we can speak and live in harmony.