Recent national events have highlighted increasing divisions within our society; whether in politics, religion and belief, or questions of identity. Different voices are becoming more alienated from one another, more entrenched in their views and less able to understand one another, posing a threat to the realisation of social cohesion.
With the increasing interaction of worldviews, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, there is a clear need for measures to be identified that facilitate and promote social harmony and cohesion. Yet there are many questions that must be asked in order to understand how such diverse identities can be afforded sufficient recognition, whilst not leading to fragmented communities.
How can a conception of identity be fostered which recognizes national characteristics, heritage and values, yet also accommodates a range of worldviews and identities that are afforded equal respect? How can society create opportunities for interaction and promote understanding between those of different backgrounds? How can our specific national, racial or religious identities relate to our universal identity as human beings?
Friends gather together to explore the role of religion in promoting social cohesion
We observe that discussion in forums addressing contentious issues often assumes the form of a debate. This presents two opposing points of view that are presumed to be in conflict. The objective in such spaces is not necessarily the investigation of truth but, rather, the ascendancy of one point of view over another.
How can we frame public discourse in light of an understanding that many viewpoints, whilst seeming contradictory, are in fact different views on one reality? How can we facilitate discussion in which there are no winners and losers, and where all perspectives can be valued and seen as contributing to the collective advancement of understanding? How do we foster an environment that promotes the exploration of subtle and complex issues and avoids the tendency to oversimplify?
Together with various sections of society, our office co-creates spaces to explore and examine the nature of dialogue in the public sphere, and its impact on social cohesion.
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Minister for Faith, in conversation at the UK Baha'i National Centre
This year, our Office has created an animation. The video explores how reconnecting with our local communities through voluntary service can affect both loneliness and social cohesion.
We all feel the need to belong somewhere, but are the ways in which we are trying to satisfy this need actually bringing us closer together? This animation explores what’s happening to our sense of community and belonging, and how focusing our attention and energy towards serving our local community could strengthen the bonds that connect us. This helps us to develop a greater sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.