The official purpose of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is 'to work for UK interests in a safe, just and prosperous world'. Recent discussions in Whitehall of the FCO's new Strategy
have identified specific international priorities which can be grouped under the following broad themes:
ensuring national security
building economic prosperity
managing global issues effectively
and providing services to UK citizens.
An underlying theme is that the UK cannot stand aside from regional or global problems. Globalisation has put an end to doubts about the relevance of distant parts of the globe to national or European well-being. The distinction between the pursuit of national interests and the pursuit of more 'altruistic' international goals is becoming blurred. Increasingly these are seen as short-term and long-term contributions towards the same goal: UK security and prosperity within the necessary context of global security and prosperity.
Faith-based groups have a range of views about foreign policy – none of them identical with that of the FCO. Here we aim to raise important questions about the relationship between the FCO and faith-based groups in the UK, specifically looking at:
(The term 'faith-based groups' is necessarily vague because the range of interested parties is so broad: organised religions and denominations, organisations which combine ethnic, national and religious elements, and broader communities of citizens with particular interest in faith-related issues.)
Read about the FCO's first Multi faith week
and a seminar to discuss ways of strengthening the FCO's relationship with the UK's ethnic minority communities
The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, delivered the Heslington Lecture at York University on 30 October 2003. Speaking ahead of the speech about faith communities in the UK, Mr Blunkett said:
'Faith can be the building blocks and the glue of community. It plays a vital role in people's lives – even for those of us who are not overtly religious. All of us, our basic values, our sense of right and wrong, are shaped by our community and its religious heritage.
'Understanding the role faith plays in people's lives is vital to community cohesion and good race relations. Many faith groups reach out to the wider community, providing facilities, undertaking practical projects and harnessing their deep commitment and drive to improve everyone's lives.'
Read the Home Secretary's speech:
One nation, many faiths – unity and diversity in multi-faith Britain