Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans and leaders from the public sector flocked to Firstsite gallery in Colchester where they promised to pool their resources to strengthen community cohesion and tackle isolation and loneliness.
The first countywide covenant in Britain, it is backed by the Government’s All Parliamentary Committee on Faith and Society, and has been signed by Basildon, Braintree, Chelmsford and Colchester councils, Essex Police, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Essex Fire Authority, to name a few.
It is also supported by Faith Action, a nationwide network of faith-based and community organisations working together to help others.
Cllr David Finch, Chair of Essex Partners and leader of Essex County Council, said: “By promoting tolerance and understanding of different faiths and working collaboratively, we can make a real difference and build much more resilient and inclusive communities.
“In signing up to the agreement, faith communities and partners pledge to follow a joint vision, a set of principles that unify us, and focus our attention on helping others. The overriding sentiment of that vision is that together we are stronger.
“Together, we can proactively build trust between faith groups and public services, we can create opportunities to learn from each other and share best practice, and we can come together to serve the community, particularly the most disadvantaged.”
Saturday’s launch, which has been almost a year in the making, included Bhangra dancers, a sitar performance, as well as Klezmer and Kanun music, alongside a world café where delegates debated how to answer two pressing questions:
- What can we do to promote trust and understanding?
- How can faith groups build community activity in Essex and tackle isolation and loneliness?
Stephen Timms MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society, told the audience: “I very much welcome the fact that Essex has adopted the faith covenant together with its partner organisations in the county.
“We’ll be very keen to follow progress over the next few months and I hope what we’re going to see is a great partnership between the county council and faith organisations.”