A welcome call for more faith literacy in Whitehall

The JC Leader, 28 April 2023


Woman hands holding mustard seeds and rock with handwritten word faith. Trust in God and Jesus Christ our Lord. Christian Bible concept. The gospel of Matthew 17:20 believe, hope and faith.

April 27, 2023 14:57

This week’s publication of the report by Colin Bloom, the government’s Independent Faith Engagement Adviser, is a significant moment.

The report is entitled “Does government do God?”, a surely deliberate evocation of the infamous remark by Alastair Campbell of his boss, Tony Blair, that “ we don’t do God”. The irony was that Blair was — and is — a man of deep faith and respect for religion.

But all too often, government and the public sector generally behave as if faith is entirely an alien concept. At its most banal but nonetheless important level, that can mean key meetings for Jewish employees, for example, being scheduled for Yom Kippur.

The report is a welcome call for more faith literacy, and it is to be hoped that its recommendations are acted on. Bloom is not Jewish, but his report is of pressing and valid concern to the Jewish community.

But there is another side to this. Faith groups themselves sometimes behave in a way that cuts across the social contract. Most obviously, the harbouring of extremists within the Muslim community is an example of faith acting against the common good.

Jews must look to our own issues, too, most notably the the scourge of some strictly-Orthodox yeshivahs and other unregistered religious institutions which operate “like a school”, as the Bloom report puts it.

When strictly-Orthodox pupils are barely able to read or write English because they were taught in unregistered religious schools with no English spoken, that is a problem for the state but also for their community.

April 27, 2023 14:57

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