There are a range of factors that shape the work that we do. They are:
agreed with the statement “Britain has changed in recent times beyond recognition it sometimes feels like a foreign country and this makes me feel uncomfortable”.
In 2011, 62% of respondents to a YouGov poll agreed with the statement “Britain has changed in recent times beyond recognition. It sometimes feels like a foreign country and this makes me feel uncomfortable”. Successive waves of migration have changed Britain; for some that is a reason for celebration, for others, it is unsettling. The result of the EU referendum in the UK was indicative of feelings of anxiety as immigration became closely linked to economic insecurities deepened by the austerity measures of recent governments. In addition, rising house prices in inner-city boroughs such as London’s are pushing residents into outer, less diverse boroughs, increasing further the pace of demographic change in some regions.
Our work seeks to enable people to develop the skills and attitudes to reflect on and talk confidently and positively about identity, faith and belief.
2017 General Election highlighted an increase in turnout amongst 18 to 24 year olds – from 43% in 2015 to 58% in 2017
The result of the 2017 General Election highlighted an increase in turnout amongst 18 to 24-year olds – from 43% in 2015 to 58% in 2017. Some commentators have pointed to the need and opportunity for a politics which is more suited to the modern political world. A recent analysis of MPs revealed that only 8% were from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds, compared to 13% of the UK population, while 29% attended private school and 24% attended Oxbridge (7% and less than 1% of the general population respectively), and only a third are women. Policy Exchange’s Bittersweet Success report found that in 2016 only 90 of 1,087 FTSE 100 directors were non-white – and just 17 were British-born non-whites.
Our emphasis on young people is a direct response to this trend. Harnessing the power of people of diverse faiths and beliefs for community and political involvement strengthens social cohesion.
Of adults concerned about the impact of the media’s portrayal of minority communities
Research by the Runnymede Trust found that 75% of adults were deeply concerned about the impact of the media’s portrayal of minority communities, considering it key to fuelling racism. The Leveson Inquiry went further, stating that “the press can have significant influence over community relations and the way in which parts of society perceive other parts”. This, in large part, reflects the recent growth of social media. The average weekly internet use in the UK has more than doubled in the last 10 years and 86% of people now have access to the internet. Facebook has 2.2 billion users worldwide (in 2005 it had 5 million).
Our work seeks to counter this by building strong relationships between people from different faiths and beliefs and applying this to the task of ensuring both traditional and new forms of media promote mutual understanding rather than misunderstanding and prejudice.
A survey showed a majority of people described themselves as having no religious affiliation
The nature of religious and non-religious belief and identity is increasingly complex. It is clear from a number of studies that the number of people in the UK identifying as nonreligious is increasing. Some data (e.g. the 2017 British Social Attitudes survey) suggests this is now over half the population. This trend has served to highlight conversations about the role of religion in society and within the education system. At the same time, within some faith communities there is an increase in religious commitment, underlining the importance of understanding dynamics within, as well as between, faith groups. More generally, there is a growing diversity of religious expression within society as people feel increasingly able to self-define their religious beliefs.
Our work enables people to reflect on their own religious identities and the identities of others and to do so in a way that enables greater collaboration and mutual understanding.
Inequality has been rising markedly since the 1980s
Antisemitism, Islamophobia and hate crime against minority faith groups is on the rise, with significant spikes following terrorist attacks such as those in Manchester and London in 2017, as well as the 2016 EU Referendum. There are no simple answers to why such hate persists. However, inequality, whether in relation to household income or access to the professions and positions of leadership, is a factor that cannot be ignored. Inequality has been rising markedly since the 1980s. More recently, the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London in 2017 proved a lightning rod for those who continue to suffer the impacts of social injustice.
Our work supports people, particularly young people from different faith and belief backgrounds, including those from more marginalised backgrounds, to overcome barriers to participation within wider society, enabling them to take on positions of leadership so that they can champion a fair, connected and cohesive society.