[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The British government have announced a £2.4 million fund to help secure places of worship in England and Wales. Churches, mosques and temples have been invited to bid for grants if they can show that they are at risk of attack from religious hate crimes. Synagogues are excluded from the scheme because the government has provided a separate grant to the Community Security Trust, a charity that provides protection services to Britain’s Jewish communities.
The scheme was launched today (Tuesday) by Britain’s senior home affairs minister, Amber Rudd, as she outlined a Hate Crime Action Plan. This will include a study into how the different police forces in the country understand and respond to hate crimes; and a commitment from the government to “give young people and teachers the tools they need to tackle hatred and prejudice, including through a new programme to equip teachers to facilitate conversations around international events and the impact they have on communities here in the UK.”
The action plan was launched following a rise in racist incidents since the UK voted to withdraw from the European Union. This has led in particular to an increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has frequently spoken out against the rise in racist incidents since the EU referendum. Earlier this month, at the Church of England’s General Synod in York, he said: “It is perfectly clear that the result and the referendum campaign had “exposed deep divisions in our society, of which we were aware already” and he called on the Church to “respond with a fresh effort in integration.”
“The result [of the referendum] has released a latent racism and xenophobia in all sectors, and challenges the prevailing consensus of tolerance and acceptance, thus threatening other areas of welcome liberalisation,” he said.
Speaking at the launch of the Hate Crime Action Plan this morning, Ms Rudd said that “Those who practise hatred send out a message that it’s okay to abuse and attack others because of their nationality, ethnicity or religious background; that it’s okay to disregard our shared values and promote the intolerance that causes enormous harm to communities and individuals.
“Well, I have a very clear message for them. We will not stand for it. Hatred has no place whatsoever in a 21st century Great Britain that works for everyone.
“We are Great Britain because we are united by values such as democracy, free speech, mutual respect and opportunity for all. We are the sum of all our parts - a proud, diverse society. Hatred does not get a seat at the table, and we will do everything we can to stamp it out.”
A government spokesperson added that its commitment to tackling hate crime was “underpinned by some of the strongest legislation in the world”, including “specific offences for racially and religiously aggravated activity and offences of stirring up hatred on the grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation.
“The government has worked with the police to improve our collective response to hate crime including ensuring the recording of religious based hate crime now includes the faith of the victim, a measure which came into effect this year.”
The government will accept bids for its security funding scheme for places of worship until 5 pm on 20 September. It says that a second round of bids will open in the spring of next year.