University of Leicester eBulletin

Having Faith in the Future

September 2003
No 217

New report from University of Leicester expert issues recommendations to promote 
religious harmony


A study led by the University of Leicester into the growth of religious places of worship in the city over the past three decades has produced 20 recommendations to promote harmony between faiths.

The Rev. Professor Richard Bonney has carried out the comprehensive study which has led to an interim report: Understanding and Celebrating Religious Diversity. The Growth of Diversity in Leicester's Places of Religious Worship since 1970.

He said: "Leicester is seen as the ideal location for the study which could act as a model for other European cities. 

"Leicester was the first planning authority in the UK, and also in Europe, to produce in 1977 a policy on places of worship, strongly reinforced by the restated and refined proactive policy of a decade later. Certainly, to ascertain how the growth of diversity in religious buildings has happened, and to learn something of its architectural richness, and the vibrant social and cultural associations which underpin it, there is no better place to start than with Leicester." 

Professor Bonney, a leading expert on religion and multi-culturalism, is Professor of Modern History at the University of Leicester and Director of the Centre for the History of Religious and Political Pluralism. His study is likely to be considered by the city council and will help shape the future of worship in this multi-faith city.

Professor Bonney said the council should spend more time advising religious groups on planning places of worship to help calm tensions in multi-cultural communities: "The case for dialogue is always strong, but especially now in light of what has happened in the Middle East. Leicester has always been in advance of other cities in Europe in terms of planning its places of worship for all its various communities."

His recommendations include:
Double up places of worship as community centres with sports halls for the public to use; 
Equal treatment of faith groups making planning applications; 
Councils should find out what various faith communities need in terms of places of worship; 
Where a place of worship changes from one faith to another, this should not be viewed as "victory" for one faith and "defeat" of the other. 

The report also calls for central government to reform immigration and asylum laws in order to identify and exclude ideologues and propagandists of extreme views of all faiths on the grounds that such extremists do not advocate pluralism but seek to undermine Britain's faith diversity from within.

NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For more information, please contact Gill Hawkes, Research Assistant to Professor Bonney on 0116 223 1899 or email gh23@le.ac.uk 

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