Birmingham hosts a ‘faith summit’. What was the point?
Yesterday, around 400 True Believers™ converged on the University of Birmingham for a multi-faith event organised by Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, above.
St Theresa of May was ecstatic – and yesterday tweeted:
Some heartening responses to the the daffy Tory leader:
• Religion has no place in politics …
• What is a Faith Community? You are talking in riddles, woman.
• The Faith Communities are a load of troublemakers. They don’t deserve any special favours.
• Our society should be built on kindness and certainly science over faith. We don’t live in the dark ages anymore.
Faith in all its different forms is a force for good in our society. I want this conference to bring all faiths together as one to find ways of tackling those areas that affect and concern us all within the wider West Midlands community.
According to this report, it’s also about cash.
In the UK, Anglican Cathedrals alone add £0.25 billion to the economy and facilitate some 10 million educational and tourist visits. Locally, about a quarter of educational institutions (both public and private) are faith based and faith backed. Temples, mosques and religious meeting places represent a substantial real estate presence from where statistically significant levels of community service are organised and sustained.
The faith conference was one of the Mayor’s ten pledges that he promised to immediately undertake following his election in May this year.
As part of 10 pledges in my first 100 days, I promised to convene a Faith Conference. This will be a unique gathering, a chance to meet like-minded friends and provide a unique opportunity for the faith community to help shape my top priorities for beginning to work with communities right across the region. I am hoping you will be able to come and join the conversation.
I am convinced our faith communities, and faith-based charities form one of the greatest – and sometimes most under-appreciated – sources of strength, vitality and resilience in our area. The region’s faith communities are part of the West Midlands we call home, but are also one of the many ways that the West Midlands is connected to the world. I want to get to work straight away to listen, support and discuss how we can work together …
A 17-strong faith steering group was established shortly after Street took office.
Co-chairs of the group, appointed by Street, are Francis Davis, Professor of Communities and Public Policy at the University of Birmingham, and Amrick Singh Ubhi, chair of the Council of Sikh Gurdwaras in Birmingham and director of the Nishkam Centre, a Sikh faith-led organisation working for the well-being of all communities based in Handsworth, Birmingham.
This gathering is intended to be a conversation between hundreds of people of faith and the Mayor to help him shape his priorities and explore ways to unlock all the talents of the region to build a more inclusive economy.?
What’s important here is the Mayor has promised us he’ll follow up with a concrete action plan and that plan, in my view, has the potential to set a national and international standard for regions like ours.
The group has dedicated enormous time and energy to ensure the Mayor’s vision to include faith communities becomes a reality. The event is not the end-game but the beginning of a journey to enable all the stakeholders in the region to play their part in the realisation and delivery of the Renewal Plan.
Faith communities locally and regionally have vast social capital and a passion to serve, help and mobilise volunteers, this is an opportunity to participate in creating greater collaboration across all sectors.