Prejudice and discrimination against people on the grounds of religion continues to be widespread, despite freedom of religious belief and expression being fundamental rights enshrined within the European Convention on Human Rights. Members of the Intercultural Cities Network have raised particular current concerns about rising levels of Islamophobia as well as the stigmatisation of other minority religions across many of their contexts. These concerns are arising in a changing social context where in Europe as a whole, there is a rise in those affiliated to no particular religious group, and after those who are Christian, Muslims are the largest religious minority, and this population is growing.1 This briefing paper explores local policy responses to tackling prejudice and discrimination against religious minorities which are possible by adopting an intercultural approach. The foundation for this approach is acknowledging the rights of all individuals and groups, whether religious or not, under the European Convention on Human Rights. This approach is based on engaging positively with faith communities alongside those with other beliefs, including secular worldviews, for the purpose of building trust, cohesion and positive intercultural interactions within the city as a whole. It starts from the position of exploring how public discourse, policies, procedures and practices can have a significant impact in exacerbating and/or reducing experiences of prejudice and discrimination within local communities. The paper presents the findings from a two day event held on 27th to 28th October 2016 involving over 70 participants (+ 4 interpreters) hosted in Donostia/San Sebastián, Spain, as part of their programme of activities as the European Capital of Culture.2 The participants included representatives from local authority areas which are members of the Intercultural Cities Network across Europe, including those employed by these authorities and members of religious minorities from these contexts. There were also a smaller number of representatives from alternative contexts, including participants from Japan (with the support of the Japan Foundation, also represented), and from the intercultural cities of Fes and Rabat in Morocco, and Montreal, Canada. This paper also builds on previous engagement by the Intercultural Cities Network in exploring issues relating to ‘Faith in Intercultural Cities’ more widely. This has included a report exploring the importance of recognising the contribution of faith groups as part of local diversity, based on an event held in London in 20143, and a workshop on interfaith dialogue at the Intercultural Cities Milestone Event held in Dublin in 2013. A wide range of potential ways of taking action to tackle prejudice and discrimination against religious minorities were identified by participants; this report summarises these, highlighting practical examples of these actions in the process. Participants frequently acknowledged that each particular response and example may have its own strengths and weaknesses, and be more appropriate in some contexts than others. Given this, it is important to match particular responses to particular issues within particular contexts, whilst in general recognising that adopting a combination of responses was important to ensure these issues were tackled in a concerted way. The focus in the following report is on reporting the participants’ perspectives as shared during the event, rather than wider research, so wider research has only been cited where this was included in their presentations; nevertheless, many of the perspectives cited here could be supported in terms of wider research, although that would require a separate paper.
Orton, A. (2016). Tackling Prejudice and Engaging with Religious Minorities: How Cities Can Make a Difference with an Intercultural Cities Approach. [No known commissioning body]