We are all very aware of the importance of faith groups within our communities and the great role they play in helping those with need – residents know they can turn to a place of worship during a crisis – financial difficulties, health scares, loneliness, relationship problems or bereavement.
It was great to see the activity that took place across Essex during Inter Faith Week last week. This celebration of faith communities working together to achieve common goals really helps to strengthen relationships and understanding between people of different faiths and beliefs. I was particularly interested in the exhibition that took place in Basildon highlighting how the Muslim population in Albania risked their lives to save Jewish neighbours during the Second World War.
The work of colleagues and volunteers at Beacon House in Colchester, and through the meal provision programme in Rochford, provide significant examples of the impact that faith-based organisations can have in helping vulnerable, homeless and those living in food poverty within our communities. I would also like to commend organisations in Braintree who came together for the ‘Believing in Communities’ event on Thursday 15th November, which was successful in starting conversations between local communities and faith groups.
Our county’s journey towards greater understanding between faith groups and public services was given greater impetus with the creation of the Essex Faith Covenant in October 2017. The steering group that leads this important initiative is going from strength to strength, with last week’s addition of Rochford District Council, it now includes representatives from several faith communities, six local authorities, Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue and Active Essex. Work is underway to plan an inter faith conference as an opportunity to bring the community together, recognise the importance of faith groups, understand need, and offer specialised support to our communities. This is being planned at present and will hopefully take place next year.
Cllr Sue Lissimore
Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities, Essex County Council