A new report from the Cambridge-based Woolf Institute, which studies relations between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, says religion is a unifying factor based on “shared social values” in times of crisis. And the Institute calls on the government to create a full-time post for dialogue between religions, similar to one which exists in Berlin.
Woolf asked the national polling company, YouGov, to analyse the situation in four major European cities — London, Paris, Rome and Berlin. The findings showed that in times of crisis, such as in the response to terror attacks, faith communities were more likely to work together. The Woolf Institute concluded that “faith and minority communities are the key to cohesion, not the driver of division”.
Crisis “triggers” in Europe include economic struggles, the influx of refugees, austerity measures, terrorism, the rise of narrow nationalism and dissatisfaction with “the establishment”.
But in response, the findings show, “grassroots initiatives conducted by minority communities are building trust, based on shared social values through times of crisis. The result is solidarity, social cohesion and community innovation across Europe”.
Polling of British adults has revealed that more people felt connected to their local community over Britain as a whole; and that people of faith “were more likely to express a strong connection to their local community and much less likely to state a strong connection to their country than some other demographic groups”.
Additionally the survey, known as Trust in Crisis, showed that those who say they have no religious identity are more critical of government. Fifty-four per cent believe that in a crisis that the government has been bad at providing support, compared with 46 per cent who identify as religious.
“Trust in Crisis” found that faith-based groups were more engaged in the public sphere, providing emergency services and making on-the-ground objections to policy.·Local citizenship was more active in public affairs, often bringing together groups across religious and ethnic lines for shared purposes.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Ed Kessler, founding director of the Woolf Institute, said: “The tragedies the UK has faced in the last few weeks alone has placed the importance of local and faith-based communities into sharp focus. Trust In Crisis identified that faith and minority communities are the key to cohesion, not the driver of division as is so-often reported. We must celebrate this new kind of citizenship, those people in our community who are taking it upon themselves to provide support and unite our local communities.”