On Thursday 14 September, Bishop Martyn spoke in the House of Lords calling for a robust long-term strategy from Government to help people of different faiths and cultures live well together here in the UK.
The theme of the debate was the Abraham Accords, a declaration and bilateral agreement to normalise diplomatic relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. In Bishop Martyn’s contribution, he spoke of the importance of supporting peace efforts in the Middle East but also recognising the impact that conflict between Muslim-majority countries and Israel can have on community relationships here in the UK.
In light of the steep increase in hate crimes committed against both Muslims and Jews during the May 2021 Gaza conflict, Bishop Martyn said: “We cannot presume that peaceful coexistence between Jewish and Muslim communities will come about automatically in the UK simply because we are at a geographical remove from the Middle East. It is by no means impossible, but it does not come about of its own accord.
“A poll done in 2020 found that 44% of British Muslims believed British Jews were more loyal to Israel than to the UK – a belief which is counted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to be anti-Semitic. That is nearly twice as many as amongst the general public at large.
“However, this perception of dual-loyalty was significantly less common among those surveyed who had friends who were Jewish. It is true integration, then, and the opportunity to build friendships that can make living well with difference possible.
“But we also need action from the Government. We need a robust long-term strategy for integration for each of the four nations of the UK, with clearly defined responsibilities for local authorities and funding allocated at national, regional and local levels.
“I was encouraged to hear that after the Government had decided to revoke the Interfaith Network’s funding, it agreed to offer the network financial support for one further year. But what, I wonder, is the Government’s long-term strategy for supporting interfaith relations in the UK?
“The Abraham Accords are an important framework which makes relationships across divides possible and fruitful. This is something the UK Government should passionately support. But we must also ensure such frameworks undergird and nurture our common life here too.”
Bishop Martyn mentioned the St Philip’s Centre as an example of an organisation striving to help people of different faiths to live well together. Earlier in the week, the St Philip’s Centre was also used as an example of how the Church of England is fostering interfaith relationships by the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, in a response to a written question from Julian Knight MP.
Andrew Selous described the St Philip’s Centre as “a unique initiative that for over a decade has been working within the Christian community and across wider society, enabling ‘communities and individuals to encounter one another in meaningful ways, to build understanding and trust’. It is leading efforts across the region to ensure religion and belief are harnessed for the good of all.”