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July 2020
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Focus Group on Models of Community Cohesion in Urban Europe

Parliamentarians' role

The GPF-UK Community Cohesion Focus Group was fortunate to have two Members of Parliament: Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, and Andrew Pelling, Independent for Croydon Central.

Tom Brake was an excellent first speaker. He delivered a most comprehensive talk about the responsibility of Parliamentarians and the Government in putting in place community cohesion policies that will benefit communities. He made a special reference to immigration and how it should be handled. He said that, although the role of the police is crucial in dealing with some situations, it is even more important that community and faith leaders take an active role in bringing this about.

Our second speaker, Andrew Pelling, was introduced by Councillor Liaquat Ali on the previous evening at the International Leadership Conference. He spontaneously offered to speak at our Community Cohesion Focus Group. He spoke about some of the tough situations in Croydon, both in terms of soaring crime figures (Croydon has the highest knife-crime rate in London) and also the isolation issues experienced by some members of the immigrant communities. Despite the problems, he testified to the amazing harmony amongst many of the ethnic minorities in Croydon.

Mr Inan Bayram, District Parliamentarian from Hamburg, Germany, who is of Turkish origin, spoke passionately about the developments in Hamburg and Germany as a whole, and of bringing better levels of community cohesion. He was very glad to be in London and have the opportunity of meeting some British Parliamentarians.

Youth service projects

Elisa Brann and Chigo Ahunany spoke about the youth service projects they organised during the Global Peace Festival, giving short reports on how each of their projects brought youth together from different parts of Europe to interact with youth in London, through service and sport. Chigo spoke of football and sport in general as a great medium to bring youth together. Elisa emphasised the importance of youth involvement to guarantee improvement in communication.

Mauro Sarasso and Mario Falani spoke about their work in Italy. Mauro took a group of Italian youth to do service projects in Israel and Palestine. Then he brought twelve Israeli and twelve Palestinian youths from the Middle East to Bergamo in Italy for a youth service experience. Mario described work with youth through his 4,000-strong youth organization, City Angels. The youth models were inspiring and well received by all.

Work in Birmingham

Mrs. Shibion Gorman and Mrs. Swaran Talwar both spoke passionately about their women’s interfaith work in Birmingham, which has created great projects in bringing communities together. The Intercultural Women’s Friendship Conferences were mentioned: these encourage friendship and sisterhood between women of different cultures, by crossing a symbolic Bridge of Peace and by working together thereafter for the sake of all the communities in their localities. This was a most wonderful model of women creating cohesion between various ethnic groups.

Work in Newham

Canon Ann Easter spoke about an excellent model of faith leaders working for community cohesion in Newham, London, when several members of the clergy came together to tackle “Paki Bashing” [as it was called in the early 1980s] in Newham. They created the first intercultural multi-faith Youth Club. Their efforts have now developed into the many different programmes of the Renewal Programme of Newham, of which Cannon Easter is the CEO. It helps various groups within the community to meet their needs through joint activities. Her very interesting and humorous speech revealed great depth, commitment, and seriousness of purpose.


Saleha Jaffer, Joint Chair of Community Cohesion Working Group, gave a report of the work carried out during the past year. She asked everyone to help by filling in a special questionnaire which will be the basis of the data the Working Group would like to present to the Communities Department, policy makers, and others in due course.

Before bringing the meeting to a close, Councillor Liaquat Ali invited the audience to ask the guest MPs, and other members of the panel, any pertinent questions. He then thanked everyone for their enthusiastic support, and extended a very special thank you to the guest speakers.

Overall, it was a very informative and stimulating afternoon. Everyone felt we should repeat the conference in the near future.