Following the urban riots of 2001, and the more recent terrorist attacks, community cohesion has replaced multiculturalism as the key social policy objective of both national and local government. Since these events were seen as having a religious dimension, they raise the question: is religion contributing to social cohesiveness - or actually undermining it? Alan Billings suggests that the positive influence of religion will be in proportion to the ability of the faiths to see pluralism as a gift from God, and to accept that we live in a diverse society where a plurality of beliefs and values will exist until the world ends.
THE REVD CANON ALAN BILLINGS is an Anglican priest and a Senior Research Fellow at Lancaster University. He was Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council when David Blunkett was Leader, and a member of the Home Office Community Cohesion Panel following the riots of 2001. He is a member of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales and the England Committee of the Big Lottery Fund, a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day', and the author of Dying and Grieving: A Guide to Pastoral Ministry (2002) and Secular Lives Sacred Hearts: The role of the church in a time of no religion (2004), both published by SPCK.