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28 June 2013

Muslims and Christians building community

Muslims and Christians building community

Photo: Near Neighbours event.

A Muslim Christian women's network in Leicester, formed by the Christian Muslim Forum has launched a directory to bring together various women's groups and organisations in the area to work together on women's issues.

The group, which was formed to unite faith communities, promote community cohesion and connect women of differing religions includes Sunni, Shia, Anglican and Catholic members.

Julian Bond, director of the Christian Muslim Forum, told the BBC: "The aim is to show people what Christian and Muslim women are doing in Leicester and how they have been coming together for a long time. These quiet movements and groups can have a great impact.

"This is happening against the backdrop of difficulties of the murder, mosque-building and mosque-burning in recent weeks."

Anjum Anwar, the only Muslim to work in a Church of England cathedral, was keen to replicate the Leicester Women's network model in Blackburn, saying: "A lot of good work has been done by mosques since 11 September and 7 July (attacks) and we want to continue this good work - to create conversation between communities and demystify facts from myths."

Leicester is a city that has a number of different faith communities living close to each other. It is one of four main locations where Church Urban Fund initiative Near Neighbours focuses, including Bradford, parts of Birmingham and East London.

Near Neighbours aims to bring people together who are near neighbours in communities that are diverse, so they can get to know each other better, build relationships as people and collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in.

The programme supports partner organisations working in these areas, and facilitates small grants to help community groups of different faiths, or none, to create events or projects that foster social interaction and social action.

"Local people in local communities are the ones who are ideally placed to identify and develop solutions that can improve their own neighbourhood," said Elizabeth Carnelley, programme director of Near Neighbours.

"We are delighted to support networks like this. Separation can lead to misunderstanding and a lack of trust or respect for each other, which is not healthy for a local community. Fostering better relationships and understanding in multi-faith areas help build stronger communities."

With the support of Near Neighbours, the Christian Muslim Forum has pioneered residential weekends, where pairs of local ministers and Imams from the same neighbourhood spend a residential weekend together to get to know each other better, build a relationship and share it with their congregation and mosque community.

Near Neighbours have 12 community workers who are based in local communities and work with four inter-faith hubs supported by the Church of England called "Presence and Engagement Centres" one in each of the four areas. www.near-neighbours.org.uk