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Sadiq Khan should adopt the Faith Covenant

Sadiq Khan has secured his second term as Mayor of London. In his acceptance speech following his successful re-election, Khan focused on the need to ‘build bridges’ – between City Hall and Government, between the capital and the rest of the country, and between the communities who live in London to build a ‘better and brighter future’.

It’s in this spirit that I promise to lead London over the next three years, building bridges between the different communities in our city, building bridges across cultural, social and class divides.

One clear, tried and tested framework the Mayor of London ought to prioritise in order to bring different communities together to work towards a better future is the Faith Covenant. The Greater London Authority has shown interest in the Covenant, but Khan should make the London-wide adoption of the Covenant one of his first priorities, to build bridges and to demonstrate recognition of the important societal role played by faith communities throughout the city.

Faith is often be portrayed as something that divides us, something which gives rise to suspicion and distrust, and therefore as something to be carefully navigated when seeking to build bridges and create more cohesive societies. But faith is actually one of the last remaining, strong sources of social capital (or ‘bridging capital’) in Britain that can truly bring different groups of people together. This point is elaborated nicely in the 2020 British Academy/Faith and Belief Forum report Cohesive Societies: Faith and Belief, which recommends, ‘Recognising the significant opportunities for ‘bridging’ capital offered by the faith and belief sector – not only through interfaith work but also, for example, in the social contribution of faith and belief groups’.

The Faith Covenant was established by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Faith and Society to build trust between local authorities and faith communities and facilitate closer working partnerships based on a shared set of principles to guide engagement. Where the Covenant has been adopted, informal relationships between faith communities and local authorities have been solidified, trust has been built, lesser-heard voices have been given a seat at the table, in some cases accountability has been established, clear channels for communication have been created, and the means for efficient action and enduring partnership have been secured. Two London boroughs, Barnet and Brent, have already adopted the Covenant, and both report these kinds of positive results.

At FaithAction, we agree with the need to bring people together, and that networks and relationships are the key ingredient to realising much of the change we would all like to see in society. Khan’s efforts to ‘build bridges’ during the next three years should see faith communities as a huge asset in that regard rather than a challenge, and signal recognition and a commitment to working with faith communities for the betterment of the city through the adoption of the Covenant.

The recent report from the APPG on Faith and Society shows there is a desire from local authorities to engage more closely with faith communities in the future and recommends the Covenant as the framework to do that. Similarly, Danny Kruger MP’s report on Levelling up Our Communities promotes the idea of a new social contract and new deal with faith communities, which the Faith Covenant could act as the basis of.

As Khan seeks to build bridges between in London between communities, he should also seek to build bridges through a new social contract between City Hall and local communities, with the Faith Covenant as the basis of that. We will be working with the GLA in the coming months to help realise the potential of a London-wide Covenant to empower faith communities to play a central role in solving local issues and bringing communities together across the city to work towards a better future together.

About Matt Allen

Project Officer

Matt plays an important role in FaithAction’s efforts to advocate for faith communities and the value they add to society. He was central in coordinating our COVID-Response project and continues to gather and collate concerns and ideas from faith communities up and down the country. He also oversees FaithAction’s work as Secretariat to the APPG on Faith and Society and works to support the propagation and health of Faith Covenants nationwide.