£3m boost from Government for inter-faith programme

The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the fresh funds for the Near Neighbours programme

A programme crossing religious and cultural boundaries has been awarded a further £3m by the Government in support of its work.

The Near Neighbours programme is a partnership between the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishop's Council that provides small grants to grassroots multi-faith projects.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, welcomed the fresh injection of funds from the Department for Communities and Local Government, saying it "gives huge opportunities" for the programme's expansion.

The extra money will enable projects to expand into other parts of the country, including Luton, Leeds and the Black country.

Archbishop Welby said at a meeting of faith and civic leaders at Rockingham Community Centre on Thursday that he was "profoundly grateful" for the support from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The event was also attended by Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles and Communities Minister, Stephen Williams.

"I think the great thing about Near Neighbours is it under promises and overachieves – and that's actually much the best way of doing it," the Archbishop said.

"It's very much grassroots, and this new expansion gives huge opportunities. We need to recognise how important that is."

He continued: "We know that one of the biggest characteristics of Jesus was not being frightened about who he talked to. He didn't only stick in his own little holy huddle, but he reached out.

"He told us to love our neighbour; one of his great parables that many people know is the story of the Good Samaritan, which is of the conflict of cultures and of history being overcome by the personal contact and working together. And when we meet each other, we deal with fear – we may not agree, but we deal with fear."

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