An Anglican priest has criticised a series of ‘Interfaith Forums’ organised by Hackney Council as “political correctness gone stupid”, saying that Christian leaders are “always expected to do the legwork”.
David Lambert, parish priest for the popular St Matthias Church in Shacklewell, said that the Forums – created to build community bonds between different faith groups – will ask Christian faith leaders to do more than Muslim and Jewish leaders.
“In theory, we should all be meeting each other halfway across the bridge,” Lambert said, “But in reality, it’s going to be us Christians who have to walk the whole way over.”
He continued: “[The council] wants us to walk down the street together, parading, but we’re focused primarily on this Christian church.”
Lambert’s comments come two months before Hackney Council launches its Faith Community Network, where local faith leaders will be asked to sign a ‘Covenant’ to encourage cooperation.
“Other faith leaders in Hackney have generally shown themselves unwilling to accommodate others,” he said.
Lambert – who has worked at St Matthias for 10 years – pointed to one occasion at an interfaith meeting, when an Orthodox Jewish leader refused to shake a woman’s hand.
“That really shocked me,” he said.
Hackney’s Interfaith Forums were created by the council in 2015 in an attempt to promote “community cohesion” between different faith groups and “celebrate the contribution of the faith community” to Hackney life.
The council said they were designed to bring together representatives of the Christian, Orthodox Jewish, Muslim and Alevi communities – Hackney’s main faith groups.
Responding to Lambert’s criticisms, Antoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor of Hackney, told the Hackney Post: “The Faith Network in Hackney exists to bring different faiths together to work on initiatives of common interest such as reducing food poverty and homelessness, and to better coordinate social action and increase community cohesion.”
Father Lambert did, however, point out that his church receives invitations from Hackney’s mosques to community engagement events.
“Unfortunately, the events are on Sunday morning so we obviously can’t attend. But it does show a certain [willingness] to engage, which I appreciate.”