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In association with Preston City Council and UCLan, Martyn Rawlinson will launch and present his research paper ‘Interfaith Dialogue and Social Action: Does Preston Need an Interfaith Strategy.’
The research paper was launched on Tuesday 13 November 2018 at a free event in Preston Town Hall.
Based on 15 years experience as a Councillor, community activist and Community Leadership studies at the University of Central Lancashire, the research presents the views of a group of interfaith activists in Preston against the backdrop of Austerity, human migration and polemic political narratives.
Preston is a religious City. Over three-quarters of Prestonians professed religious belief at the 2011 census, above the national average.
The diversity of religious belief in Preston reflects the diversity of the population, so the subject of ‘Interfaith’ overlaps with both race and culture. Any issues of racial, religious and cultural tensions are also intricately linked to poverty.
The U.K. race riots in the 1990’s didn’t happen in Kensington and Chelsea, they happened in post industrial northern towns with segregated communities characterised by cultural division and poverty.
Preston escaped this unrest but the ingredients for conflict are all here; segregated communities, low income households, tensions fuelled by right-wing national media outlets and visiting hate groups. Preston’s place as an administrative centre for both local and national government, the hospital, the university has probably kept abject poverty at bay and saved us from such difficulties.
The city’s diversity however continues to make it a target. National narratives around human migration, terrorism and Brexit are contributing to an increase in hate crime and county research suggests opportunistic racial and religious hatred has become normalised in some communities.
Despite this, Preston reacts well to threats and accusations of cultural divisions. The last time the English Defence League visited Preston, a ‘one community’ counter event brought people together to celebrate our diversity; Brexit was the catalyst for Feast For Peace, now an annual fixture in the city centre events program; and various faith groups have orchestrated the collection and distribution of food and other goods to the homeless, the hungry, refugees and asylum seekers.
Social Action by the faith and Interfaith communities in Preston doesn’t stop there. A recent audit by Lancashire Together conservatively estimated the value of faith-based volunteering across Preston and South Ribble at two million pounds a year. This is a huge contribution to the well-being of our needy citizens at a time of controversial welfare reform and Austerity policies.
Preston Faith Forum and the Light Foundation also hold regular interfaith events that tackle misconceptions and increase understanding between those of different faiths and non-believers.
The research contains seventeen recommendations for the faith and Interfaith communities and the public sector.
The research paper is available to download in the documents section on this page.