Near Neighbours initiative launched
The Bishop of London joined Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, at St John Church on Bethnal Green to launch Near Neighbours, a three-year initiative that aims to bring people together in diverse communities, helping them to build relationships and collaborate to improve the local community they live in.
The Near Neighbours Fund awards grants of up to £5,000 to projects that enable people of different faiths (or none) to work together to the benefit of the community.
The fund has so far approved over £98,000 of funding for 26 different projects across the country including the DIVA women’s group organising cross-cultural social activities in Bethnal Green.
Near Neighbours taps into the unique Church of England parish system, which has a presence in all neighbourhoods and has for decades been working locally with partners in multi-faith areas to foster better relationships.
With the local infrastructure already in place through the Church and other Near Neighbours partners to deliver this new initiative, the money goes where it is needed without creating new layers of administration.
Near Neighbours, which was created by the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishop’s Council, is focussed on key areas such as East London where there are many deprived multi-faith neighbourhoods.
The programme is co-ordinated by local hubs with experience of local community partnership working, such as the Contextual Theology Centre in Tower Hamlets, and works in partnership with the Christian Muslim Forum, the Council of Christians and Jews and the Hindu Christian Forum.
The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, said:
"Near Neighbours embraces the idea that multiple and complementary approaches can produce impressive and cumulative benefits for a community. I welcome this initiative wholeheartedly.
"I hope that it will provide further evidence of what can be done through faith communities working together for the common good. I hope that the corporate world will see these pilot projects made possible by government support as an incentive for extending this model of interaction and action to other parts of the country."