The British Humanist Association (BHA) have been angered after inter- faith groups have had their Government funding preserved in the recent spending review.
Interfaith groups are currently eligible to receive Government grants to hold events to promote integration and tolerance, as well as providing money for Interfaith week, which takes place every November.
The humanist group argue that interfaith groups and events actively exclude members of certain religions or individuals without faith.
Pepper Harrow, BHA Campaigns Officer, says inter-faith events often achieve the opposite effect of their intention: “What we’re against is the Government funding these groups that expressly exclude people because of their religion or belief, we feel that doesn’t make sense in terms of a fair and equal society and that can do damage to social inclusion at a local level.”
Further to this, the group say that because of their very nature, interfaith events often simply preach to the converted and don’t challenge the prejudices of those who hold them, but those who attend the events are already tolerant to other faiths and belief systems.
While the University of Lincoln Chaplain, Les Acklam admits that there may be an element of preaching to the converted at interfaith events, he also believes that such events genuinely help promote understanding and promote social cohesion, he says:
“I think it’s important for meet together, the things I’ve been involved in here in Lincoln in a very small way, is that people meet together that don’t normally meet, it’s about learning about other people and that’s an important agenda as our society becomes more multi-cultural and also as greater suspicion and fear grow alongside it. I think bringing people together from different traditions is really important.”
Acklam also argues that the only way peace will come to the world is through peace between different religions. He says: “I’m sure humanists are interested in peace and they work for peace. But they’ve also got to acknowledge that the religious issues are very important and therefore bringing religious people together is important for the peace of the same world in which they live.”