Heather Bellamy spoke with Debra Green, the executive director of Redeeming Our Communities, about Prevent, the Government scheme aiming to protect people at risk of radicalisation and how we can build safer, kinder communities.

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Preventing Radicalisation And Extremism

I think that's partly because of ignorance, because of people not understanding how different faiths are represented, and looking at the types of behaviour in the Church, which can be so completely different from the types of behaviour that we see in people who are radicalised. I am very concerned about, almost, there could be some more pressures coming to the Church in the next season to restrict what we do.

Heather: It almost becomes more of the problem. It starts to cause more disenfranchisement and more misunderstanding and frustration, doesn't it?

Debra: That's right.

Heather: Your tagline at ROC is 'People of goodwill working together towards safer, kinder communities.' What do you think the UK is like at the minute in relation to communities being safe and kind, since Brexit, or the recent terror attacks? Are you finding communities are pulling together or being pulled apart?

Debra: It depends on which communities you go to. I personally have seen a huge number of communities coming together and expressing neighbourliness and care. We're seeing a real explosion in mercy ministries and compassionate ministries. We've got things like Street Angels, Street Pastors, Foodbanks and Christians Against Poverty; some of the projects we do ourselves as ROC, like mentoring and youth groups. Churches are the biggest deliverers of youth groups in the UK. There's been a real explosion on these expressions of kindness, and works that help people in social need.

Then you can go to other communities where there is a lot of fragmentation and very little coordination in what activities are going on there. In one way I'm encouraged and in another way, there's still a way to go. I think there's more of an awareness now about what community cohesion is.

Heather: You mentioned that you're putting on an event called 'We Stand Together'. What's the aim of that event?

Debra: It was originally going to be called a Faith Summit. I was working with Cheshire Police. We were looking at the idea of doing a Faith Summit and we went for that particular week because it's a week where we're going to be looking at racial hatred and anti-racial hatred. We want to inspire people to understand one another and be respectful of one another's different traditions and values.

Our aim is to bring together different faith communities from across Cheshire, including the Christian Church communities, but also people from Buddhist Temples, some Sikhs are coming, and some people are coming from local Mosques in Cheshire, to come together with the local authority, and with the police, to talk about how we work together. We're going to showcase some examples of working that and hopefully that will inspire other people to do similar things.

Heather: Is it open to anybody to come along or is it invitation only?

Debra: It's open to anybody to come. It'll be mainly people from Cheshire. There are eight different police divisions within Cheshire. We've got eight different parts of Cheshire who're going to be represented, but we've got some people coming with a national hat on looking at whether this could be a model to roll out in other places, this type of conference where everybody comes together and learns a greater respect and a greater understanding of traditions and values. How do we live in community together? How do we understand one another? And how do we give everybody an equal voice, and get rid of some of the racial tension and racial hatreds that exist and prejudices? I think a lot of it comes from ignorance because we don't understand where that person is coming from. I think to get everyone together in one conference, in one place, to be able to hear one another, it's a really powerful tool to take forward in perhaps other parts of the UK as well.

Heather: If people wanted to come from outside Cheshire, just to look in and see if it might be helpful for them, is that alright for them to come along?

Debra: Yeah sure, it is nearly fully booked, but if you go on to our website roc.uk.com in our events page, you'll see the We Come Together in Cheshire event advertised. I think there are still a few places left. I'm hoping we get the whole thing filled as well so we can put it out on YouTube channels or social media channels. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.