Bishop Nick has praised the work of Near Neighbours during its national conference held in Leeds.
Near Neighbours brings people together who are near neighbours in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse, so that they can get to know and understand each other better, build relationships of trust and collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in.
The programme - an initiative of the Church Urban Fund - works in a number of locations across England, including Leeds, Bradford, Dewsbury, Bury, Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham and London.
Bishop Nick said, “Near Neighbours is fundamentally about working together. It’s about constantly translating our culture and language, and being willing to have our perspectives changed by those who are different to us - being willing to look again at how we see God, the world and us.
“Near Neighbours recognises the importance of the small and the local. And while we always have to pay attention to the particular in the light of the general, or the local in the light of the global, interfaith engagement at the neighbourhood level is very different, and has different challenges, to the international level.
“For interfaith talks to progress and be truly effective they need to be honest, and there needs to be a level of trust. If they’re taking place locally, you can’t walk away from the things you’ve said. And you have to have a developed understanding of the context into which you’re talking as no faith is monolithic – Islam in South London for example is very different from Islam in West Yorkshire.”
He said a recent good example of different faiths working together was when, during the floods, he received a call from local mosques asking how, given the Church of England’s network of churches in every parish, they could work with the Church in providing help for those in need.
As well as seminars and talks on local projects, the conference (to which nearly 200 came) heard from a range of speakers experienced in cross-faith community work and from different faith perspectives, including Riaz Ravat, Deputy Director of the St Philip’s Centre in Leicester and Rabbi Natan Levy of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.