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Leaders share hopes for the new government’s engagement with faith communities

Leaders share hopes for the new government’s engagement with faith communities

Following last week’s General Election, what do commentators hope will change for religious communities under the new government? 09/07/2024

Following the election of a Labour government, we asked a group of religion experts and faith leaders: what do you hope will change in the new government’s approach to faith communities?  

My hope is that the new government will come, look and learn from how we do things in Greater Manchester. That they will recognise us as crucial partners: for the ways we can serve our neighbours; for the insights our beliefs and values offer to building a common future; for the reach we have into sectors of society who feel a long way from decision makers. We’re not the fancy dress division of the voluntary sector, we’re the majority of the people of Britain, living out their deepest–held beliefs. 

David Walker is the Church of England bishop of Manchester and a member of the House of Lords 


The faith communities here in Britain have so much to contribute in terms of culture, history, food, thinking, creativity, and caring. The minority communities also share concern about being marginalised or othered. Deeply embedded in my Jewish heritage and also in the wider communities, I hope that an incoming government will build close and trusting relationships with all of our faith communities to make Britain a better place for everyone 

Laura Marks CBE, Interfaith consultant and activist 


I welcome a more compassionate tone from government that ditches the culture wars working with faith leaders rather than scolding them when they speak out for social justice. On refugees I want government to support the churches of sanctuary movement that stands for racial justice, embraces those seeking refuge and recognises the immense contribution migration makes to the British economy. On poverty, they should partner with initiatives like the ChurchWorks Warm Welcome Campaign but also tackle issues of structural inequality. On children and young people, create an environment where churches can continue to deliver early years provision, youth work, early intervention schools work, Saturday schools and alternative education provision for vulnerable pupils. Finally, embrace climate justice, for a better future for the globe! 

Rt Rev Mike Royal, general secretary of Churches Together in England 


The period since 7 October has seen the highest rates of antisemitic incidents ever recorded in the UK and soaring rates of Islamophobia. At grassroots and even senior leadership levels, interfaith relations are being severely tested. There is an urgent need for the incoming government to listen to faith communities and to commit to ongoing communication; to consider providing funding for local and national bodies which support community cohesion; and to prioritise universities for the sake of the safety and wellbeing of Jewish students — and indeed all minority student groups. 

Nathan Eddy, co–director, Council of Christians and Jews 


My hope is that faith communities will be seen as valued friends of the government; as those who want the government to succeed and do well. Often government engage faith communities as stakeholders to be managed, groups employed for good works, or factions to be mobilised. Faith communities can be all those, but also much more. I hope we will be better understood as friends who will be faithful allies in resetting politics and promoting integrity and public service; our views – even when difficult for the government– always respected, and our contribution in speaking truth to power really valued.   

Ross Hendry, CEO of CARE 


As a Sikh, a government prioritising ‘service’ is very welcome. I hope it will recognise the vital contributions of faith communities and foster an inclusive approach with ‘respect and humility’ to create meaningful change. Engaging faith communities on social, political, and economic issues is essential as is supporting faith–based social initiatives. Women and young people of faith, often the backbone of these efforts, but rarely engaged by those in power must be involved and heard. The government should address issues specific to faith communities and work with them all to tackle race hate crime and violations of religious freedom. By bringing us to the table, we can build a trust–based partnership that serves the common good. 

Jagbir Jhutti–Johal, professor of Sikh Studies at the University of Birmingham 


Congratulations to Sir Keir Starmer on winning the election and becoming the UK’s 58th Prime Minister! I hope that his government will consult meaningfully with faith–based communities to understand the complex challenges confronting society that neither the state nor the market can (or should) solve, and that it will empower faith–based communities to make their unique contribution. I also hope that the government will understand that the distinctive theological commitments and vision of human flourishing of such communities are essential to the contribution they make. In return, the government should expect us to contribute to the flourishing of all by helping rebuild the ‘ancient ruins’ (Isaiah 61:4) of our democratic institutions through our prayers, engagement, and service in our daily lives. 

Paul Woolley, CEO, the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) 


Secularism is sometimes promoted as being antithetical to faith. My hope is that the new government will understand that secularity is not separate from faith or freedom of conscience. Instead, it provides the scaffold for a pluralistic society made up of individuals or groups who may have profoundly differing belief systems but are nonetheless willing to live together in a shared social order. In an insecure world where belief and intolerance are too often linked, our government, institutions and media need to support religious literacy and cooperation across civic, national and international levels. 

Anna McNamee, executive director, The Sandford St Martin Trust 


Our new government needs to take seriously the ability of faith groups and communities to create local networks of solidarity and resilience for our economy and social fabric. As highlighted by recent crises (austerity, COVID–19, cost of living) faith groups are highly adept at pulling together local actors and networks to provide relational, health and social care and acting as local hubs of activism and participation These hubs function proactively rather than reactively when the next inevitable crisis hits. A Labour government should invest time and resources into encouraging our faith communities to develop this capacity as part of a National Resilience Strategy for the UK. 

Professor Chris Baker, professor of Religion, Belief and Public Life, Goldsmiths, University of London, and Director of Research, William Temple Foundation 


The new government has a chance to work in active partnership with churches across the country who are delivering much needed support to communities who need it most. It’s vital that the government lets churches and Christian charities work without hindrance or restrict the expression of their beliefs which are vital to the transforming work they do. The government needs to listen to the concerns of churches and be open to challenge, that way we can foster a truly plural society that acknowledges difference and does not force Christians to minimise their beliefs or leave them at the door.  

Danny Webster, director of advocacy, Evangelical Alliance 


The sagest advice that I had from an old woman mentor in the Scottish Highlands when writing Poacher’s Pilgrimage on war, poverties and spirituality, was “Don’t tell them, show them.” Of the new government’s approach to faith communities, I don’t have a clue!  But I know what faith communities can do. They can show elected representatives what it means to restore the human. They can show the meaning that gives meaning to meaning. As a prayer of the Iona Community has it, we can show “new ways to touch the hearts of all”; so, dig from where you stand. 

Alastair McIntosh is a writer, activist and Quaker 


As Director of the largest interfaith organisation in the UK I am looking to the new government for more creative forms of engagement on policy with what is a complex and diverse faith and belief sector. The Interfaith Network (IFN) provided some navigation before it closed. Without it, there are questions about how government will manage to engage with a multitude of different interests and needs. This is why we have worked with over 30  others to form a new Faith & Belief Policy Collective. I hope that government will take the opportunity offered by this collective to get a better handle on how to engage, on what, and with who. 

Phil Champain, Director, Faith & Belief Forum

On Theos’ ‘Religion Counts’ series

This blog is part of a larger body of work including briefing papers and articles exploring the impact of religion on voting patterns in the UK.

The first briefing paper: Do the religious vote? which examines whether voters from different religions backgrounds are more or less likely to vote.

The second briefing paper: Who do the religious vote for? looks at data on party preference – which parties are people from various religious backgrounds likely to vote for?

The third briefing paper: Do the religious feel like they can make a difference? which explores political efficacy, social trust, and political trust amongst religious participants.

The fourth briefing paper: Economic and Social Values which maps the economic and social attitudes of religious groups in Britain.  

The fifth briefing paper: What do the religious think about key election issues? which breaks down how religious people in Britain feel about the most important issues facing the UK.

The sixth briefing paper: National Identity and Scottish Independence explores what religious people think about national identity.

The seventh briefing paper: Where do the religious stand on climate change? assesses attitudes to the environment by religious affiliation and practice.

Learn more about our Religion Counts work here.

Could you help uncover the impact faith can make in this election year by giving to our Religion Counts election appeal?


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