Lord Bourne, Minister for Integration, visits Southall Gurdwara to meet community leaders
Lord Bourne, the newly appointed Minister for Integration, visits Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Southall, the largest Sikh temple in London, to meet community leaders.
Amid reports of an increase in hate crimes in recent weeks and with government funded projects, True Vision and Tell Mama, recording a rise in incidents, the Minister met with the Church of England and Sikh community to speak out against racism.
The minister also visited the partnership in Southall which is run by the Near Neighbours programme. The project brings people from different faiths together so they can build trust and collaborate on projects to advance their local areas.
“The recent hate crimes are absolutely repulsive and those who seek to create division and exploit current events for their own agendas must be shown that racism is wrong,” Lord Bourne said. “I’m privileged to listen to people in Southall and want to learn from them so we can apply this in other areas across the country.”
Kiran Kaur, Nehemiah Community Worker based at the Gurdwara, said: “I lived around here for years and never knew there was a church around the corner from our Gurdwara.
“Now there’s an open door policy. We’ve started to interact with each other and we can both go back to our places of worship and spread the word about events and activities.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government has provided the Near Neighbours programme with £9.5million since 2011 to fund community-led local projects.
In this time, through its small grants programme, Near Neighbours has funded 1100 projects, benefiting more than a million people in some of England’s most diverse communities.
From teaching coding to girls in North London, a pop up community café in Leeds to community gardening in Luton, the programme covers a broad range of activities across the arts, the environment and sport, with over 50% of projects offering new skills to the unemployed.
Steven Derby, Director of Interfaith Matters said: “The work that Near Neighbours does has been so beneficial to local communities.
“I make connections across London, from working with clergy from seven world faiths in Westminster to focussing on the strictly orthodox Jewish community in Hackney– all of the projects are going excellently.”
Near Neighbours was set up in 2011 in partnership between the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishop’s Council and is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The project works out of ‘hubs’ in Bradford, Birmingham, the Black Country Leicester, Luton and across most of London.
Projects in Southall include: A course for ladies of different faiths to come together. This listening service provides a safe space for women who may not be able to access counselling. The project is tailored to cultural and social needs, such as allowing time for prayers and the school-run, while battling the stigma around mental health in the faith community.
Having already transformed Southall Park, the Community Orchard Project is currently in phase 2 at Southall recreation ground. By bringing together people of different faiths in a neutral space to improve the local areas, the project allows real bonds to form as people plant, grow and break a sweat together.
United Youth Football project was hosted by St John’s Church created a safe space for young people of different faiths and backgrounds to come together using football. Teenagers who had previously stuck to friendships with those from the same ethnic background were able to connect with others and create long-lasting inter-faith friendships.
The Inter-Faith Youth Forum is now being set up to combat segregation in schools, allowing young people to come together and learn about different religions. Topics range from explaining Eid and Vaisakhi to questioning the true meaning of Christmas. Through education the aim of the project is to encourage understanding and respect for different cultures from a young age.