Dear friends,

Neighbours United: Faith Leaders Summit 

I write to brief you on the outcome of our first Hodge Hill faith leaders summit last week.

At our meeting I explained that there is a clear need in Hodge Hill to strengthen relationships between neighbours across our community. Levels of social trust need to be higher - and there is an urgency for action, now. We face a rising challenge from extremism in all its vicious shades. On the one hand, there is a growing risk from radicalisation, at a time when the threat level to the UK remains high. On the other hand, there has been an appalling increase in Islamophobic attacks - and our community is united in the view that Islamophobia is rising sharply.

Our faith leaders summit concluded some important messages:

  1. There is a shared ambition to equip our young people with a strong moral core, and an ability to judge right from wrong. We think that young people are quite right to angry about injustice. We want our children to be idealistic; to want to change the world for the better; to take personal responsibility for their actions. We want, therefore, to help equip our children with a strong moral framework with which to study and understand the world, to understand the consequences of their actions, and to identify their own moral responsibilities for ‘good change’.
  2. We recognise that schools are under pressure, and nor do we think that this job can simply be ‘outsourced’ to teachers. We recognise too that many parents find these conversations with children difficult. Furthermore, we recognise that relationships between grandparents and children are weak - and that this stops the transmission of good values, and the wisdom of experience down the ages.
  3. We believe that many young people lack a safe space where they can debate and explore their analysis of the world and debate what ‘good change’ looks like. We believe that young people find this frustrating.
  4. We believe that religion and faith is a source of confidence for young people - when confidence is sorely needed. In this day and age of social media, social pressure on children can feel relentless
  5. Finally, we feel that faith is under pressure in public life, and in public spaces, to the poverty of all of us.

We reflected therefore that there is much good work that faith leaders can do together in our community, to help us build a community of stronger relationships. In particular, we felt that we should work on the following;


  1. Creating a common credo, informed by each faith, of the essential characteristics of a good life, and personal responsibility to each other and the community around us. We want to bring this alive for our diverse community
  2. Discussion of how we create a wide range of spaces where this credo can be brought to life; this might be in schools, which are under a new duty to promote good values; or it might be in youth work settings, for example, in the scouting movement. We need too, to equip parents with materials with which they can teach their children, and discuss ethical questions at home
  3. We should encourage young people to debate, discuss and produce their own content reflecting on this credo; this might be in social media, as ‘content producers’; it might be within the boundaries of a new Hodge Hill Youth Council.

I can also tell you that amongst our young people, there is a desire for faith leaders to do more; both to promote a good understanding of different faiths; and to show how faiths share so much. This is a very clear conclusion from workshops I have run in all of our schools over the last few months.

The purpose of this next faith leaders summit, would be to discuss the conclusions I have listed here, and to plan some specific steps to take us forward in 2016.

I very much hope that this new dialogue can take its place in a wider constituency discussion I would like to launch year called Neighbours United. My aim with this is to bring together four lines of conversation, with faith leaders, with school leaders, with young people, and with parents, to discuss and implement ideas that strengthen relationships across our community.

Many thanks again for all your support and the work you do day in, day out to enrich our community. I am copying this to a range of local stakeholders, including our headteachers.

Yours ever

Liam Byrne